Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Behind the well-known handshake between Macron and Trump, the ambiguous stance of the President Macron shows his will to make France a diplomatic leader of the EU.

When President Trump visited Paris for the annual Bastille Day, after Macron’s invitation, the majority of the media focused on the handshake between the two presidents. Though, there is much more behind this visit than a 25-second handshake. Specifically, through this visit, the new President of the French Republic is trying to make France the intermediator between Europe and USA.

After President Trump took office at the White House, the relations between the EU and the USA have been very volatile. Trump adopted a very aggressive rhetoric against those states that did not fulfil NATO’s requirements, while he consistently attacked Germany’s surpluses and “free-riding” on NATO.

On the other side, EU leaders have criticised repetitively Trump’s policies. Adding to this, at the beginning of July Macron launched a website which trolled Trump’s environmental policies by naming it “Make Our Planet Great Again” and encouraging anyone concerned about climate change to emigrate to France. Behind this image of aggressiveness and trolling, though, there are politics.

Trump’s visit to Paris was a great opportunity for Macron to give a hand of friendship and make France the leader of the diplomacy in the EU. While Germany is the economic giant of the EU and everyone sees Merkel as the de facto leader of the Union, France has been left aside. As the economy of the Eurozone leaves behind the financial crisis, the obstacles for French economy and the need for painful reforms remain. Under these circumstances, Macron is trying to take advantage of the difficult relationship between Germany and the USA from the one side and the fact that the USA is becoming increasingly isolated.

Apart from the tactics of each side, there are real issues to be tackled. Specifically, both countries see each other as major defence partners, as in the case of the war in Syria and Iraq. Adding to this, both presidents agreed to work toward a post-war roadmap for Syria and are largely in agreement in terms of security and stability in the Mideast. Finally, Trump left open the possibility that he’ll reconsider his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. Though, he added that if this doesn’t happen, “that will be OK too.”

Vasilis Spyrakos Patronas is a political scientist and expert in European economy and politics. He is a Political Analyst at Greek think tank Synpraxis and is currently pursuing an MSc in Political Economy...

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