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New French Leader Macron Vows to Overcome Division in Society - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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New French President Emmanuel Macron pledged in his inaugural address on Sunday to work on overcoming divisions in society which had been shown by the presidential election campaign and seek to build a strong France that was confident of itself in the world.

“The division and fractures in our society must be overcome,” said the 39-year-old centrist who was elected on May 7 after beating the far right leader Marine Le Pen following a bitter campaign that was dominated by France’s role in Europe and which blew apart the traditional party structure in France.

“For decades France has doubted itself,” Macron said in his inaugural speech at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, making one of his main tasks “to bring self-confidence back to the French.”

“The world and Europe needs France more than ever. They need a strong France that is sure of its destiny. A France that upholds freedom and solidarity,” Macron declared.

“I am convinced that the power of France is not in decline, as we are at the dawn of an extraordinary rebirth.”

Macron, who has shaken up French politics with his meteoric rise to the presidency, said he will do everything that is necessary to fight terrorism and authoritarianism and to resolve the world’s migration crisis.

The centrist said “we will take all our responsibilities to provide, every time it’s needed, a relevant response to big contemporary crises.”

He also listed “the excesses of capitalism in the world” and climate change among his future challenges.

Macron said all countries in the world are “interdependent … we are all neighbors.” He announced his determination to push ahead with reforms to free up France’s economy and pledged to press for a “more efficient, more democratic” European Union.

Macron is the youngest president in the country’s history and the 8th president of France’s Fifth Republic, created in 1958. His Republic on the Move movement hopes to reinvigorate French politics and win a majority of lawmakers in the June parliamentary election.

Appointees

Before Sunday’s inaugural ceremony, Macron appointed Alexis Kohler as secretary general of the Elysee palace, the most powerful role among presidential staff, while career diplomat Philippe Etienne was named as his top foreign policy advisor.

Kohler, a 44-year old graduate of France’s elite ENA administrative school, was Macron’s chief of staff when the incoming president was economy minister and has worked for the Treasury.

He will be Macron’s right-hand man, the top official in the Elysee administration and a key political advisor who is typically the main contact point for ministries, parties, unions and business leaders and plays an important role in crafting policies.

Etienne, a 61-year old former ambassador well known both in Brussels and Berlin, was appointed to be the incoming president’s diplomatic advisor, Macron’s staff said. Also an ENA graduate, his nomination was immediately saluted in the EU capital.

“This is very good news. Philippe is an authority on EU affairs and a promoter of Franco-German friendship,” Martin Selmayr, the head of cabinet for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said on Twitter.

The news was also welcomed among French diplomats. “He is extremely well aware of EU affairs,” one senior diplomatic source said, calling him a skilled negotiator.

The appointments were announced as Macron readied for his inauguration as president on Sunday at a ceremony in the Elysee palace.

Macron will name a prime minister on Monday and the new government will be announced on Tuesday, a source said.

Farewell Hollande!

Macron’s inauguration ceremony was steeped in French ritual and tradition.

Macron, who arrived in a Renault armored car just as it stopped raining, walked up a red carpet to the Elysee steps where he was greeted by outgoing President Francois Hollande. The two men shook hands and went up to the president’s office where they met for a private talk before the ceremony when, among other things, France’s nuclear codes were passed on.

In accordance with tradition, the Elysee’s new tenant escorted Hollande to his car. Hollande was driven away in a modest hatchback, leaving behind leadership of a country battered by several deadly terror attacks and an economy that failed to pick up under his watch.

Hollande decided not to run for a second term. His popularity, and that of his Socialist Party, plunged after the Paris attacks in November 2015, in which 130 people were killed.

About 300 guests attended Macron’s inauguration inside the Elysee’s reception hall in the building’s west wing. The hall overlooks gardens where the ceremony continued with the playing of the national anthem and a traditional 21-gun salute from cannon placed at the nearby Invalides.

Macron was joined by his wife, Brigitte Trogneux, on Sunday, a woman who the new President has portrayed as a mentor. He has said he will likely give his wife an official role in his government.

He wore a dark suit that cost 450 euros ($491), made by his usual Paris tailor, his aides said by text message. His spouse wore a lavender-blue dress designed for her by Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquiere and carried a purse loaned to her by the brand.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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