From our special correspondent in Washington DC and Arlington (Virginia),
The expected arrival time of Emmanuel Macron at the podium of the French Embassy in Washington is largely overwhelmed when a civil servant comes to the microphone to say that “the president is coming… in a few minutes”. General hilarity in the room full of expats. It’s like that: following the President of the Republic on the move means expecting to wait. “But is he the usual forty-five minutes late or are we more on two hours?” “, pretends to wonder a regular journalist. The irony is that the French delegation and Emmanuel Macron have only one word in their mouths during this state visit: “Resynchronize”. Not the agenda, obviously, but Franco-American relations.
But for that, he takes the time and his ease in the agenda, the Head of State. He discusses, he exchanges with those he meets. This was the case during Wednesday’s lunch, with representatives and senators, to whom he addressed a long introductory remark. Then again spoke again. Did he do well? Because Emmanuel Macron dropped a small bomb there: he declared that the American measures against inflation, with an investment plan and subsidies of 430 billion dollars, were “super aggressive” with regard to French companies. And risked “fragmenting the West” if “Europe and France become a kind of adjustment variable” of the USA-China rivalry.
The AFP alert at one point sent cold sweats to the Elysée team. Because there shouldn’t be any journalists in the room. An AFP agent, however, managed to stay among the guests. The “resynchronization” seemed to be badly embarked.
” Direct “
The President of the Republic assumes a “direct” language. Or even downright undiplomatic, during a state visit, where one is received with so much respect? The spokeswoman for the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, played the appeasement, assuring that the American plan would create “significant opportunities for European companies and for European energy security. It’s not a zero-sum game.”
The shock passed, the Elysée wanted to play down, recalling that there was “no surprise” in the position of the president. And it is true that he has already had occasion to say that he finds the American measures too protectionist. For the Presidency of the Republic, the “resynchronization” of Franco-American relations means better coordination on this type of subject, which has consequences far beyond the United States.
But on the form? The Elysée does not qualify the exit and lets the journalists do it. We are just limited to saying that Emmanuel Macron “assumes” his words. However, he did not repeat them in front of the French community gathered at the French Embassy, where the Head of State ended up arriving. He even seemed to want to rectify the situation a little, while remaining firm: France wants to obtain exceptions for certain sectors or certain companies in the American anti-inflation package, recalls the Elysée.
Light on the graves
In the end, Emmanuel Macron stayed almost an hour later than planned with the American parliamentarians, Wednesday noon. So much delay for the ceremony of homage to the unknown American soldiers at the national cemetery of Arlington. The journalists, who arrived very early, had plenty of time to worry about the black clouds above their heads and the few drops that were falling. Believe it or not, the sun only broke through when “La Marseillaise” was being played, for the arrival of the president. A perfect meteorological “resynchronization”.
Necessary, to fully appreciate the impressive American necropolis: 350,000 people are buried here, on the other side of the Potomac. Tombstones as far as the eye can see on these hills which face Washington and seem to hold the federal capital at bay. Deaths from all American wars from the Civil War to the most recent. We would get lost there. The immense cemeteries of Douaumont or Colleville, in France, offer only a small extract of this experience.
After the short ceremony was over, the rain started pouring down. We must recognize that Wednesday, the delay of Emmanuel Macron was good.