FONTVIEILLE, France – Recently elected French President François Hollande
continued over the weekend in Washington a diplomatic ballet begun in Berlin
last Tuesday, just a few hours after his inauguration at the Elysée Palace in
His first visit as head of state was to German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, whom he tried to convince to renegotiate the EU budget agreement. He
wasn’t able to spend much time at home – only one day – before flying abroad
again for a series of meetings and summits in the US.
US President Barack
Obama was surprised by the socialist’s election victory on May 6. Until
the first round of the presidential vote on April 22, Obama had been sure that
the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy would be reelected.
Obama asked the new
French president to visit him on Friday at the White House before the G8 summit
that begin that evening at Camp David and continued on Saturday.
traveled with his partner, Valérie Trierweiler, and had lunch with US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton. Their status as an unmarried couple created a protocol
headache for Washington staffers, not accustomed to this sort of
The two presidents discussed the issue of economic growth,
which according to Hollande must be “a priority.”
Italian Prime Minister
Mario Monti also expressed a desire to redirect the economic policies of his
country away from austerity and toward growth.
Obama has been keeping a
close eye on the situation in Europe, which could create a domino effect
directly affecting the direction of the American economy.
90-minute talk, Hollande told journalists that his US counterpart “may have
indicated a convergence of feeling with Paris.”
Obama said at the same
press conference that the summit evoked “a responsible approach to austerity
budgets coupled with energetic measures for growth.”
Also on the table,
both in Washington and at Camp David, was the question of the withdrawal of NATO
soldiers from Afghanistan, which is planned for the end of 2014, but which the
new French administration wants to advance for its own contingent to the end of
“The withdrawal is not negotiable; it is a French decision, and
this French decision will be implemented,” Hollande said.
conference began with a working dinner focusing on the Iranian nuclear program
(coming ahead of the second round of discussions with Tehran in Baghdad on
Tuesday), as well as the North Korean nuclear program and the violence in
However, the most serious and urgent question to be discussed in
Washington and at Camp David was the economic situation in
Hollande said that Obama and he had “the same conviction that
Greece must remain in the euro zone.”
New French Prime Minister Jean-Marc
Ayrault said on Friday that “we must help Greece to find growth again and not
just to pay its debt.”
A day after Hollande chose Ayrault as prime
minister, he presented his cabinet composed of 34 ministers and deputy
ministers, with portfolios equally divided between men and women.
prime minister Laurent Fabius was appointed foreign minister and Pierre
Moscovici was appointed minister of finance.
The first secretary of the
Socialist Party, Martine Aubry, who was expecting to be nominated prime
minister, preferred in the end not to join the government.
The G8 summit
will be followed by the NATO summit in Chicago, which begins on Sunday and
continues on Monday.
After his busy international first week in office,
Hollande will find himself having to deal with domestic affairs, which he only
started to address on his first day by issuing an order cutting his salary and
that of his ministers by 30 percent. The ministers also had to sign “a charter
of good behavior” meant to distance the new government from the Sarkozy years.