Macron and Merkel meet with Trump

First French President Emmanuel Macron and then German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited US President Donald Trump last week. Whereas Macron's visit was marked by chummy backslapping, Merkel's was a characterised by discussions behind closed doors. What have the two achieved with their different strategies?

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Les Echos (FR) /

Flattery won't get you very far

It's doubtful whether Macron is pursuing the right strategy with Trump, Les Echos puts in:

“This trip brought us one great moment, namely Macron's speech in Congress. Nevertheless it leaves the bitter aftertaste of a good deal of unfinished business, regarding both content and form. ... One can only support the French president's praiseworthy attempt to play the close friendship card with Donald Trump which others have left unplayed. However, buttering up to a man in order to avoid the worst - or to secure small concessions - is one thing. It's another altogether to advance a project in which you truly believe.”

Polityka (PL) /

Only strong together

There is a specific reason why neither Chancellor Merkel nor President Macron achieved anything with their visits to Trump, Polityka surmises:

“By the looks of things Macron and Merkel were unable to get Trump to change his mind on Iran or any other issue. ... Macron and Merkel aren't teaming up as a harmonious duo. They aren't meeting the president as joint representatives of the EU or of a united Europe who could convince Trump of the need to strengthen transatlantic ties.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

A little German objectivity, please!

Macron failed to adopt a clear stance vis-à-vis Trump during his visit, the Süddeutsche Zeitung points out, and pins its hopes on Angela Merkel:

“First playing buddies with Donald Trump including slaps on the back and kisses on the cheek, and then a rhetorical sledgehammer against his policies in Congress. What's going on here? And what does Macron hope to achieve with such tactics? ... What does the French president think he will gain by stooping to Trump's level and making a show of their closeness by getting all touchy-feely? ... Those who imitate Trump's political games will be beaten by him. There's no topping Trump when it comes to vanity. But there is when it comes to objectivity and reliability. Consequently Trump's style must not become Europe's style. Merkel now has a chance to correct Macron's mistakes.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Merkel should also get touchy-feely

The French president will achieve more with his demonstratively friendly approach than the German chancellor can with her cool stance, the Irish Examiner believes:

“Macron clearly recognises that treating Trump as an outcast in international politics would be counterproductive, even if they are poles apart philosophically. Merkel, who arrives in Washington today, has still to learn this lesson. So far, her contacts with Trump have been cool, to say the least. When Merkel visited the White House in March of last year, Trump declined an invitation to shake her hand. She impassively accepted that. Two months later, when Macron visited, he insisted on shaking the US president's hands, whether he wanted it or not. Unlike Merkel, that makes Macron a mover as well as a shaker in international politics.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

New approach won't work

Macron's two-step between praise and critique was worth a try but will no doubt be in vain, historian Anne Applebaum writes in an article republished by Gazeta Wyborcza:

“This combination - flattery plus direct talk - hasn't yet been tried on Trump. The friendly gestures will appeal to his narcissism; there is a slim chance - very, very slim - that it might even get him to change his mind about some things. There is a greater risk that the clear opposition, even cloaked in elaborate references to Lincoln and both Roosevelts, might irk him. But the most likely result is that the American president won't pay attention to what Macron was trying to say indeed, that he won't even understand that he has been so openly challenged.”