What is Macron's agenda in Beirut?
French President Macron has become the first foreign head of state to visit Lebanon after the devastating explosion in Beirut. Addressing citizens protesting against the government, he called for the setting up of an international aid programme to rebuild the battered country and stressed that the aid should go to the people directly. Commentators discuss whether this was the right gesture at the right time.
This man has got it all worked out
Macron does not trust the corrupt and failed Lebanese leadership, the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour comments approvingly:
“Whether it was an accident or an attack, a bomb or a missile, Israel or an accident - what do we care! This is roughly the message that those who survived the Beirut disaster had for Emmanuel Macron and the international community. The Lebanese state, the real one, is not and cannot be the monster that it is today. So ignore it, bypass it, pretend it doesn't exist. Above all, it must not be allowed to conduct the investigation into the August 4th explosion alone, and it must not be in charge of allocating international aid. With regard to these and other points, Emmanuel Macron showed last night that he had taken decisive steps.”
A strong signal from Europe
Der Spiegel praises Macron's response to the disaster as courageous:
“Of course, Macron's visit can also be explained by the fact that it still makes a good impression at home when the president cuts a strong figure in the former colonies. But first and foremost it sends a strong signal from Europe that Macron travelled to the country so quickly and has taken sides with the people there - against the hated elites. ... France is the only EU state that has genuine geopolitical ambitions and has always openly shown them - sometimes misguidedly, as its recent solo efforts in Libyashow. But at least Macron has the will to forge foreign policy and is not afraid to take on a leading role as a European. Germany could learn from this.”
France is weaving a geopolitical net to stop Turkey's advance in the Mediterranean, La Repubblica believes:
“The French president's mission in Lebanon coincides with the announcement of a sea, energy and economic agreement between Greece and Egypt. It is a clear response to the sea border agreement that Turkey and the Libyan government signed in Tripoli last year. This is probably no coincidence: Here, too, France has its hand in the game - a France that is being humiliated by Turkey in Libya and is determined to also undercut Ankara in Lebanon, which was once Turkey's backyard in the Middle East. A 'big game' in the Mediterranean, with Paris calling the shots.”
PR and interventionism? No thanks!
De Morgen is rather surprised at how France's president is seizing the moment here:
“Now President Macron is parading like a hero through the streets of Beirut. The Lebanese people seek the comfort in him that they cannot find in their own leaders. It's a strange image: the Lebanese people clinging to the leader of the country from which they once liberated themselves. ... Once all the detritus has been cleared away it will become clear whether the people's anger leads to change or to chaos and even more destruction. Hopefully Belgium will then prove to be faster and more effective. And no, it would be better if this was not with a PR campaign or French-style interventionism.”