- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2017

PARIS (AP) — On his first full day in office, France’s freshly inaugurated President Emmanuel Macron was moving quickly Monday on fronts foreign and domestic, with a scheduled first presidential trip to Berlin for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the expected unveiling of his choice for prime minister.

Among names being bandied around for the top job in Macron’s first government, speculation mostly centered on Edouard Philippe. The 46-year-old lawmaker, largely unknown to voters, is a member of the mainstream-right Republicans party that was badly battered by Macron’s victory in the presidential campaign.

Appointing Philippe could tick several boxes for 39-year-old Macron, France’s youngest president, who took power on Sunday. Philippe’s age would reinforce the generational shift in France’s corridors of power and the image of youthful vigor that Macron is cultivating. It would also make good on Macron’s campaign promises to repopulate French politics with new faces.

Philippe could also attract other Republicans to Macron’s cause as the centrist president works to piece together a majority in parliament to pass promised economic reforms.

Macron’s planned afternoon trip to Berlin, his first as president, signals his intent to also move rapidly on campaign promises to revive support for the European Union by reforming and strengthening it.

On Sunday, Macron said: “We will need a more efficient Europe, a more democratic Europe, a more political Europe because it’s the instrument of our power and our sovereignty, I will work on that.”

Germany is looking to Macron to revitalize France as an economic power and political heavyweight in an EU facing complex divorce proceedings with Britain. When Britain leaves the bloc in 2019, France will be the EU’s only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

As a presidential candidate, Macron called for a “new Franco-German deal” that would involve “much more structured cooperation” on investment, on European border security, and on defense.

Macron is the conservative Merkel’s fourth French president in nearly 12 years as chancellor. She built a solid relationship with Macron’s predecessor, Socialist Francois Hollande, despite their political differences — notably with their joint effort to secure an accord to calm the crisis in Ukraine in tense overnight talks in Minsk, Belarus in 2015.

Germany is keen to continue with the Franco-German diplomatic drive to keep a lid on the situation in Ukraine.

Merkel has praised Macron’s embrace of European unity but has offered few concrete details of the way forward for German-French relations.

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John Leicester in Paris and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.

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