Some new presidents wait three months until they make their first overseas trip. Not Emmanuel Macron. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, the freshly-elected, 39-year-old French president headed to Berlin today, just 24 hours after his inauguration.
A stronger, more united Europe sits at the top of Macron's agenda, as shown by his election night victory march last week to the strains of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" — the European Union's official anthem. In yesterday's inauguration address, he declared, "We will need a more efficient, democratic and political Europe, because it is the instrument of our power and sovereignty." But how he can actually make that happen remains to be seen.
In Berlin, Macron will meet a reinvigorated Angela Merkel after the Chancellor's CDU party unseated SPD rivals in Sunday's regional elections in Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia. It's a victory that bodes well both for Merkel's hopes to secure a fourth term at Germany's helm in national elections in September, and subsequently for Macron's desire to move swiftly on a new, common plan for Europe.
Now the Macron-Merkel duo — "Mackerel"? — must breathe a whole new life into the European project.
As journalists Stefan Kornelius and Christian Wernicke explain in Süddeutsche Zeitung, France and Germany are planning "a new beginning" in their relations and will be looking at ways to bring their cooperation closer, including on security and defense issues. For Sascha Lehnartz, Die Welt"s correspondent in Paris, Macron's "courageous pro-Germanism" is a "unique opportunity" for Germany and for Europe. But there is also an opportunity in teaming up with Macron for Merkel, who, Lehnartz writes, "over the past 12 years didn't stand out as an outspoken Francophile."
In the German as well as in the French press, there is the unmistakable feeling that a new era is opening today. With Macron's victory over Marine Le Pen, the EU just survived a "near-death experience,"Süddeutsche Zeitung"s Stefan Kornelius writes. But now the Macron-Merkel duo — "Mackerel"? — must breathe a whole new life into the European project.