Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated as French president on Sunday, will fly to Berlin the next day
After walking up the red carpet to the lyse Palace on Sunday morning, being briefed on the nuclear deterrent by the outgoing Socialist leader Franois Hollande, and making his first speech, Macron will on Monday fly to Berlin to meet the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
It is traditional for French leaders to make Berlin their first European trip. The pro-European centrist Macron wants to boost the French-German motor at the heart of Europe and press for closer cooperation, including creating a parliament and budget for the eurozone.
But if Macron is to push for eurozone reform, he must also prove to Berlin and other European allies that he can deliver the changes he has promised on Frances sluggish economy and deficit problem.
The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schuble, in an interview with the weekly Spiegel, kept up his countrys pressure on France to reduce its budget deficit to the EU ceiling of 3%. France can make it, he said.
Macron, 39, Frances youngest elected leader, vowed during his campaign that he would immediately loosen Frances rigid labour regulations, giving businesses more power over setting working hours and deciding working conditions. He said that if needed, he would push through these changes by decree soon after taking office. Trade unions and leftwing demonstrators are warning of street protests if changes are not handled carefully.
Macrons first move after taking power on Sunday will be to name his prime minister who will have to negotiate the balancing act of Macrons neither right nor left stance with government and parliament. There has rarely been so much secrecy surrounding a French prime ministers appointment, with speculation surrounding various politicians from the right and centre. Frankly, I dont know, said Richard Ferrand, the secretary general of Macrons political movement when asked by a French TV journalist. And thats good, because if I knew Id be obliged to lie to you.
Once Macrons prime minister is in place, his fledgling political movement, rebranded as La Rpublique En Marche (La REM) or Republic on the Move, has to win a majority in the parliamentary elections in June. Otherwise Macron could be pressured into a kind of coalition government that could see his hands tied, unable to enact his plans to ease red tape and regulations on business, overhaul work practices as well as changing the pensions and unemployment systems.
Macrons political movement this week unveiled a batch of 428 candidates that it will field for the 577-seat parliament. Half of them have never sat in parliament before, including a retired female bullfighter and a star mathematician, and half were women.
After Macron promised a renewal of the old political system by bringing in new talent, uniting politicians from left and right and ending the old-style horse-trading of party politics, his candidates list sparked his first major political row.
The veteran Franois Bayrou, who allied with Macron towards the end of the presidential campaign, broke ranks and complained that he had not been consulted about the list. He told LObs magazine that Macrons candidates list was a big recycling operation for the Socialist party, adding bitterly that 153 candidates were connected in some way to the Socialists or their allies, with much fewer from classic centrist parties. Talks were under way with Bayrou on Friday to calm the row.
Macrons movement was also forced to correct its list after about 10 people said they had not agreed to stand or had never applied to be a candidate. One was Mourad Boudjellal, the wealthy president of Toulon rugby club, who said that while he was flattered about being approached, it is not my ambition to enter politics.