Alarm For Macron As Deputy Party Chief Steps Down

France’s President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a meeting at Winfield House with US President Donald Trump in central London on December 3, 2019. NATO leaders gather Tuesday for a summit to mark the alliance’s 70th anniversary but with leaders feuding and name-calling over money and strategy, the mood is far from festive. LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP

 

The number two official in French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party on Monday stepped down, declaring the movement needed an “electric shock” after a string of electoral routs.

The health of Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party, created for his successful 2017 presidential campaign, is a growing headache for the president as he prepares to seek relection in 2022.

The party’s number two Pierre Person, who will remain a member, told the Le Monde daily that he was stepping down from his executive post to “give the party a new breath”.

He said he wanted to create an “electric shock” as “cosmetic changes are not going to be enough”, with the party still stuck in its logic that dated from the 2017 presidential election campaign.

The resignation of Person, 31, a former leader of a LREM youth wing who came from the Socialist Party, comes after the party suffered a series of reverses at the ballot box.

Person was also reported to have tense relations with the number one party official Stanislas Guerini.

Local elections earlier this year were a disaster for the LREM, with the party failing to take control of a single major city hall.

More bad news came in six by-elections for vacant parliament seats at the weekend where no LREM candidate has made it to the second round.

Person said in the interview that the LREM “needs to have its own reason to exist” rather than just “copy and pasting the message of the government”.

Some two dozen MPs earlier this year defected from the LREM to other formations, formally robbing the party of its overall majority, although the make-up of the National Assembly lower house means it can still pass legislation.

Many analysts expect the 2022 elections to be a two-horse race between Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

And Macron has in the last months notably shifted the tone to the right, talking tough particularly on security and against Islamic extremism.

A cabinet reshuffle this July saw right-wingers Jean Castex and Gerald Darmanin appointed as prime minister and interior minister respectively. Both had originally come from the Republicans (LR) right-wing party.

AFP

Macron To Hold Top-Level Talks In Baghdad Wednesday – Iraq Officials

French President Emmanuel Macron makes a statement as he arrives for a European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan. – The EU has been plunged into a historic economic crunch by the coronavirus crisis, and EU officials have drawn up plans for a huge stimulus package to lead their countries out of lockdown. (Photo by Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron will make his first official trip to Iraq on Wednesday, government sources in Baghdad told AFP, to signal solidarity with the crisis-hit country.

The one-day visit following his trip to Lebanon will make Macron the most senior foreign official to travel to Iraq since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi ascended to power in May.

“He will meet the Iraqi prime minister and president and is hoping to hold talks with a range of political actors,” an Iraqi government source told AFP.

Two other Iraqi officials confirmed the visit. Macron’s office has yet to publically confirm the trip.

The focus, the Iraqi sources said, would be on “sovereignty” — insisting Baghdad carve out an independent path away from the tug-of-war between its two main allies, Washington and Tehran.

The message will echo that of France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian during a trip to Iraq in July, when he insisted Baghdad “should dissociate itself from regional tensions”.

On August 27, French Defence minister Florence Parly held talks in Baghdad and Arbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Unlike most foreign officials visiting Iraq, Macron will not stop over in Arbil, and is instead hoping Kurdish leaders will come to Baghdad to meet him.

Iraq has been rocked by a series of crises this year, starting with a US drone strike in January that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Iran retaliated with strikes against US troops in western Iraq, and Tehran-backed groups are suspected of launching volleys of rockets on American diplomatic, military and commercial interests in recent months.

As OPEC’s second biggest crude producer, Iraq was hit hard by the collapse in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic forced the country’s fragile economy to sink even further.

AFP

Macron, Merkel Meet With Turkey, Belarus, COVID-19 On The Agenda

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrives at Fort de Bregancon, in Bormes-les-Mimosas, south-east of France, on August 20, 2020. – French President Emmanuel Macron meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to strengthen the understanding of the Franco-German couple on the many hot European and international issues. Christophe SIMON / POOL / AFP.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron received German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his Mediterranean holiday retreat on Thursday to discuss a long list of burning issues including the coronavirus pandemic, post-election unrest in Belarus and growing tensions with Turkey.

The pair have a packed agenda for their meeting at the Fort de Bregancon, with challenges raised by Britain’s departure from the European Union, climate change, the coup d’etat in Mali, and the consequences of the devastating blast in Lebanon also set to loom large.

Macron welcomed Merkel for her first-ever visit to the presidential summer residence with a Namaste-style greeting, palms pressed together and bending at the waist, in observance of social-distancing guidelines against coronavirus spread.

According to the Elysee Palace, a priority of the talks will be to push ahead with a coronavirus recovery fund for Europe which the pair had piloted and was agreed at an EU summit last month.

“The international agenda is particularly full,” the French presidency said ahead of the talks which are to be followed by a news conference and a working dinner.

It added that Paris and Berlin shared “a high level of convergence” on the issues.

The allies will look to coordinate policy on the mass protests in Belarus following President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election win which the opposition had denounced as a fraud.

– ‘Destabilising factor’ –

They will also discuss mounting tensions between Greece and Turkey over disputed Mediterranean waters, with Macron taking a tough line against Ankara.

In an interview with Paris Match published earlier Thursday, the French president said his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan was conducting an “expansionist policy that mixes nationalism and Islamism, which is not compatible with European interests”.

He also accused Turkey of being a “destabilising factor”.

Germany, for its part, is seeking to mediate between Turkey and Greece in a growing row over gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

Also on this issue, “there is no contradiction on the substance” between Paris and Berlin, said the Elysee.

Macron and Merkel last saw each other at a marathon five-day EU summit that ended on July 21 with member states agreeing to a 750-billion-euro ($858-billion) rescue plan for economies left shattered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany and France strongly backed the package, which enables joint borrowing by the 27 members of the bloc to help virus-hit countries, particularly Spain and Italy.

The deal was a special victory for Macron, who came to office in 2017 committed to strengthening the European Union but has struggled to deliver.

AFP

French President Macron Calls For ‘Lasting’ Syria Ceasefire

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the opening day of the “Made in France“ event at the Elysee Palace in Paris on January 17, 2020. Michel Euler / POOL / AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the opening day of the “Made in France“ event at the Elysee Palace in Paris on January 17, 2020. Michel Euler / POOL / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for Turkey and Russia to implement a lasting ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib province in conversations with the two countries’ leaders, the Elysee said.

Moscow-backed Syrian forces have since December led a military offensive against the final major rebel stronghold, where Ankara supports some rebel groups.

Macron expressed his “very strong concern about the unfolding humanitarian crisis” to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, according to a statement released on Saturday.

He also warned of the risk terrorist groups would spread “because of the military offensive of the Syrian regime and its allies,” adding it undermined the 2018 Idlib agreement between Russia and Turkey to create a demilitarised zone in the northwestern province.

READ ALSO: Merkel, Macron, Johnson Agree To Work Towards ‘Reducing Tensions’ In Mideast

The accord has fallen apart as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces moved to recapture the last big region outside his control.

Macron said an “immediate halt to hostilities” is needed and called on Russia and Turkey to implement a “lasting and verifiable” ceasefire as outlined in that agreement.

Russia must “end its military offensive in northwest Syria and respect international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians, personnel and humanitarian access”, he added.

Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have called for a summit with Erdogan and Putin to seek an end to the crisis.

AFP

France, Italy Mark 500th Anniversary Of Leonardo da Vinci’s Death

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Italian President Sergio Mattarella (2L) arrive for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Italian Renaissance painter and scientist Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), in Chambord, France, on May 2, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella on Thursday kicked off commemorations to mark 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci died in France, paying their respects to the Renaissance genius in a show of unity after months of diplomatic tensions.

“The bond between our countries and our citizens is indestructible,” Macron said after the two men lunched at the Clos Luce, the sumptuous manor house where Leonardo spent the last three years of his life.

The two heads of state began their visit at the royal chateau in Amboise, where they laid wreaths at Leonardo’s grave.

The joint celebrations come after months of mounting diplomatic tensions between Paris and Rome over the hardline policies of Italy’s populist government and its support for France’s anti-government “yellow vest” protesters.

In the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries since World War II, Paris briefly recalled its ambassador from Rome.

Amboise, a sleepy town on the Loire River where Leonardo died in 1519, was in virtual lockdown because of fears of protests by France’s grassroots “yellow vest” movement.

Traffic in the town of just 13,000 was banned within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius and the usually teeming restaurants and shops shuttered. On Wednesday, dozens of cars were towed away, with some foreign owners apparently unaware of the draconian security measures.

The presidential helicopter arrived on a river island in the heart of the town, touching down on a pad usually used to launch hot-air balloons over the chateau-studded valley.

Later Thursday, the two presidents headed to the sprawling chateau of Chambord — whose central double-helix staircase is attributed to Leonardo though the first stone was not laid until four months after his death.

Among glitterati attending the events were Italian star architect Renzo Piano, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and historian Stephane Bern, a prominent French television personality.

But a new scandal hung over the event after a French arts magazine revealed Tuesday that an investigation had been opened into the alleged destruction of listed property during extensive renovation work at the Clos Luce in 2017.

The online La Tribune de l’Art said workers removed 18th-century woodwork and a fireplace and made major alterations to floors and ceilings in the privately owned mansion.

 ‘Architect of the king’

Francis I, known as the “Sun King of the 16th century”, is widely credited with bringing the Renaissance to France, even if his predecessor Louis XII had begun the process by bringing in architects and artisans from Florence, Milan and Rome.

Leonardo was 64 when he accepted the young Francis I’s invitation to Amboise, at a time when rivals Michelangelo and Raphael were rising stars.

With Leonardo’s commissions drying up, it came as a great relief and no small vindication for the Tuscan artist, who received a handsome stipend as the “first painter, engineer and architect of the king”.

At the time, Francis I was barely 23, and his ambitious mother Louise of Savoy “knew that Leonardo would be the man who would allow her son to flourish”, Catherine Simon Marion, managing director of the Clos Luce, told AFP.

Leonardo brought with him three of his favourite paintings: the Mona Lisa, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and Saint John the Baptist — all of which today hang in the Louvre museum in Paris.

Italy and France have also sparred over an accord under which Italy will lend several Leonardos to the Louvre in October.

With fewer than 20 Leonardo paintings still in existence, many Italians are resentful that the Louvre possesses five of them, as well as 22 drawings.

During his three years in Amboise, Leonardo organised lavish parties for the court and worked to design an ideal city for Francis at nearby Romorantin — one of the polymath’s many unrealised projects — all while continuing his research.

Macron is the first French president to visit the town since Charles de Gaulle came in 1959.

AFP

Mike Adenuga Bags France’s Highest Award

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has conferred France’s highest national honour of Commander of the Legion of Honour on Globacom Chairman, Dr Mike Adenuga, Jr.

Adenuga thus becomes the first Nigerian to be decorated with the award.

Explaining why the French Government decided to confer the country’s highest honour on Adenuga, President Macron said the legendary business guru is “a true role model for Africa” who has contributed immensely to the growth of the African and French economy.

President Macron applauded Adenuga on his promotion of the French language and culture in Nigeria, and also commended Adenuga’s daughter, Bella Disu, who conceived, coordinated and executed the Alliance Française project.

READ ALSO: If Africa Doesn’t Succeed, France And Europe Will Never Succeed – Macron

He disclosed that in his two and half years in Nigeria, he can testify that Nigeria holds one trump card that is more important to surmount all challenges it may be facing now.

This, he said, is the “incomparable spirit of entrepreneur, tenacity and ability to think out of the box,” adding that Adenuga personifies all these qualities.

Macron bestowed the prestigious award on Adenuga at the inauguration of the new Alliance Francaise, Mike Adenuga Centre in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday.

The audience at the event included Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos, Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and captains of industry.

French President Holds Interactive Session With Entrepreneurs In Lagos

French President, Emmanuel Macron is holding an interactive session with entrepreneurs in Lagos State.

The event is being organised by the Tony Elumelu Foundation at the Victoria Island area of the state.

France President, Emmanuel Macron addressing entrepreneurs at the Tony Elumelu Foundation in Lagos on Wednesday.

President Macron has been on a working visit to Nigeria where he was on Tuesday received by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.

He later came into Lagos to celebrate the African culture with the Governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode at the Afrika Shrine.

Buhari Receives French President, Emmanuel Macron In Abuja

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday received French President, Emmanuel Macron, at the presidential villa in Abuja.

The meeting is part of efforts to forge closer ties with English-speaking Africa.

Macron, a 40-year-old former investment banker who speaks fluent English, has made a point of boosting ties with France’s former colonies but also improving trade with anglophone countries.

 

 

Later today, he will also visit Lagos State where the state government has planned to host him at the New Afrika Shrine founded by Femi Kuti, son of music legend, Fela Kuti – making him the first president to enter the venue.

The New Afrika Shrine located at Ikeja Lagos was built after the original Shrine by the musical maverick, Fela was burnt down in 1977.

In Lagos, the agenda will be less traditionally diplomatic, with a focus more on the megacity of 20 million people’s artistic and cultural scene.

 

 

The French President is expected to officially launch the African Cultural Season which takes place in France in 2020, at an event showcasing music, fashion and theatre.

The choice of location — the Shrine concert venue of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti — has come as a surprise for many Nigerians given its association with the anti-establishment musician.

 

“It’s a pleasant surprise that Macron chose to celebrate the cultural scene in Lagos,” said Steve Ayorinde, Lagos state tourism commissioner.

“But it didn’t come as a shock, knowing that France is a very cultural country and knowing that Macron is a young president.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has announced that there would be traffic diversion and restricted movement from 12 noon to 12 midnight on Tuesday around the Alausa, Afrika Shrine/Agidingbi axis.

Macron Says He ‘Never Meant To Offend’ Italy With Migrant Comments

Macron Takes To Airwaves Amid Rail Strikes, Syria Crisis
File: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a meeting with EU and African leaders to discuss how to ease the European Union’s migrant crisis, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on August 28, 2017. PHOTO: LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron sought to resolve tensions with Italy on Thursday, saying he never meant to cause offence by criticising its rejection of a migrant ship in remarks that sparked fury in Rome.

Macron had on Tuesday ignited the worst Franco-Italian diplomatic spat in years by accusing Rome of “cynicism and irresponsibility” for refusing to take in 629 migrants left stranded on a rescue ship that was eventually welcomed by Spain.

Rome summoned the French ambassador and cancelled a meeting between the countries’ economy ministers while threatening to call off talks between Macron and Italian premier Giuseppe Conte in Paris on Friday unless France issued an “official apology”.

But the tensions appeared to have ebbed after a telephone call Wednesday night between Macron and Conte.

“The president stressed that none of his comments were intended to offend Italy and the Italian people,” Macron’s office said in a statement, adding that Friday’s lunch meeting with Conte will go ahead as planned.

Conte told reporters in Rome that the exchange was “very cordial”.

Asked whether he thought the row was over, he said: “I very much think so, yes.

“But now we need to work on reform of the Dublin Agreement,” he added in reference to controversial EU asylum rules.

The confirmation of his Paris visit came minutes after Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio said Rome would “not back down” without a French apology.

“The day when people thought they could make a mockery of Italy is over,” Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement that shares power with the far-right League, was quoted by Agi news agency as saying.

‘Axis of the willing’

The plight of the Aquarius rescue ship — which is en route to Spain — has again shone a light on the failure of EU members to band together in the face of an unprecedented influx of migrants across the Mediterranean since 2015.

Under the Dublin rules, migrants must apply for asylum in the European country where they first arrive, putting pressure on Italy and Greece, the main entry points for people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

An EU scheme to distribute migrants equitably around the bloc has failed miserably, with central European members flatly refusing the quotas and others, including France, falling far short of their allocated target.

On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hailed the hardline stance on immigration taken by the interior ministers of his country, Italy and Germany — whose interior minister is openly feuding with Chancellor Angela Merkel on the issue.

“We believe an axis of the willing is needed to fight illegal migration,” he said.

More than 700,000 migrants and refugees have landed in Italy since 2013.

Many West Africans try to continue on to France, where they speak the language and often have relatives, only to find the border shut to them.

Thousands of those who manage to sneak past controls through crossings in the Alps have been detained and sent back to Italy.

In a swipe at France, Italy’s government said Tuesday it would not accept “hypocritical lessons from countries that have preferred to look the other way on immigration”.

Charities have sounded the alarm over the toll the crisis is taking on migrants’ safety.

On Thursday, a court in Hungary — a country that backed Italy’s decision to turn away the Aquarius migrants — will rule in the case of a group of people smugglers accused of letting 71 migrants suffocate in a lorry in 2015.

The gruesome discovery of the bodies highlighted the ruthlessness of gangs that prey on migrants heading to Europe.

‘Europe must do more’

Macron, in his call with Conte, called for closer cooperation between Rome and Paris to try to check the migrant flows at their source — currently mainly in Africa.

France had “always defended the need for greater European solidarity with the Italian people”, he said.

The issue of how to share the migrant burden is expected to dominate an EU summit at the end of June.

While Italy has taken much of the flak over the Aquarius, Macron has come in for criticism at home — for remaining silent for two days while the ship was adrift and then laying the blame solely at Italy’s feet.

European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau on Thursday defended France’s record.

“France last year received a record number of asylum seekers,” she said — 100,000 asylum requests.

France, she added, had also taken the second-biggest share of migrants relocated from Greece and Italy.

“We’re doing a lot but it’s true: Europe must do more and must do better to help Italy,” she said.

AFP

Macron’s Chief Of Staff To Face Corruption Probe

Secretary-General of the Elysee Presidential Palace, Alexis Kohler, arrives for a joint cabinet meeting of the French and German governments at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. T
Patrick KOVARIK / AFP

 

French anti-corruption prosecutors have opened an investigation into French President Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff, Alexis Kohler, focused on his links to Italian shipping giant MSC, a statement said on Monday.

Kohler and the president’s office denied the allegations, which were first reported by French investigative media group Mediapart.

AFP

Macron, Trump Discuss ‘Peace And Stability In Middle East’

Trump, Macron Call For 'New' Nuclear Deal With Iran
US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron hold a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 24, 2018. PHOTO: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone Tuesday with Donald Trump, just hours before the US president is widely expected to pull out of a key nuclear deal with Iran, his office said.

In a terse statement, the Elysee Palace said only that the two men “discussed matters relating to peace and stability in the Middle East,” with no specific mention of Iran.

Macron has positioned himself as the emissary for European officials seeking a compromise that would keep the deal intact, after months of warnings by Trump that it fails to guarantee Tehran won’t eventually build a nuclear weapon.

He had hoped to successfully argue his case during a state visit to Washington last month, but later made no secret that he believed Trump had already made up his mind to scrap the Obama-era accord.

Their discussion Tuesday came as Britain, Germany, France and a senior EU official met Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi in Brussels and “used this opportunity to reiterate their support to the continued full and effective implementation of the (deal) by all sides”, the bloc said in a statement.

Trump said on Twitter that he would announce his decision at 1800 GMT, in what could be his most consequential foreign policy move yet.

AFP

Macron Reiterates Need To Keep Iran Nuclear Deal

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) speaks with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (centre R) during a visit to an Australian Navy base at Garden Island in Sydney on May 2, 2018. 
LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP

 

French leader Emmanuel Macron reinforced Wednesday his commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, saying no one wants an escalation of tensions in the region while admitting the accord needed strengthening.

US President Donald Trump is threatening to pull out of the agreement, negotiated in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, by a May 12 deadline for Washington to renew its support for the deal.

The agreement imposes strict restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the loosening of economic sanctions.

Macron, who met Trump in Washington last week to try to convince him to not walk away, admitted he still did not know what decision the US leader would take.

“I don’t know what the US president will decide on May 12,” he said during a two-day visit to Sydney, speaking alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“I just want to say whatever the decision will be, we will have to prepare such a broader negotiation and a broader deal, because I think nobody wants a war in the region, and nobody wants an escalation in terms of tension in the region.”

Trump has pilloried the agreement designed to curb Iran’s nuclear programme as “insane” and “ridiculous” and called for fresh measures to counter Iran’s ballistic missile programme and support for militant groups across the Middle East.

Macron, who admitted in Sydney that the existing deal was “not sufficient”, is pushing for international talks on a potential wider accord.

Speaking in English, he said there needed to be three additional “pillars” in the agreement.

“One about the nuclear activity post 2025. Second, in order to have better control and monitoring of the ballistic activity of the Iranian regime.

“Third, in order to have a containment of the Iranian activity in the region, especially Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.”

The current deal gives Iran massive sanctions relief and the guarantee of a civilian nuclear programme in return for limiting enrichment that could produce weapons-grade fuel.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had new “proof” of an Iranian nuclear weapons plan that could be activated at any time.

Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic programme was for civilian purposes

Macron made no comment on the Israeli claims, only that France was “very much attached to the stability of the region.”

“That’s why we want to work on this new negotiation in coordination with Germany and the United Kingdom,” he said.

“We will work actively in order to convince everybody to have in the coming days, weeks and months such negotiation which is the only way to progress and stabilise the region.”

AFP