Francois Hollande had quite a first day as French president: swearing in, Champs Elysees parade in torrential rain, then a lightning strike to his plane en route to meet the world's most powerful woman.

"/> Francois Hollande had quite a first day as French president: swearing in, Champs Elysees parade in torrential rain, then a lightning strike to his plane en route to meet the world's most powerful woman.

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ANGELA MERKEL

Hollande has turbulent first day

Francois Hollande had quite a first day as French president: swearing in, Champs Elysees parade in torrential rain, then a lightning strike to his plane en route to meet the world's most powerful woman.

Hollande has turbulent first day
Margaux L'Hermite

Hollande could already consider himself unlucky with the one-in-a-million lightning strike that delayed his visit to Berlin to see Chancellor Angela Merkel and his luck with the weather did not improve as he arrived in Germany.

Where two hours before there was sunshine, unseasonal drizzle ensured Hollande suffered his second dousing of the day as he arrived at Merkel’s squat grey chancellery for crunch talks on the eurozone debt crisis.

Merkel was all smiles as she greeted the new president and appeared relaxed throughout. Hollande, on his first foreign trip as France’s leader, seemed stiffer and less at ease, only sometimes cracking a smile.

The leaders of Europe’s two powerhouses engaged in a brief handshake — gone the kisses on the cheeks Merkel had with Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy — then squelched onto the red carpet, flanked by a military band.

Waving briefly to a handful of onlookers huddled under umbrellas, the two leaders stood side-by-side for the two national anthems, she in her customary pose with hands clasped at her front, he almost standing to attention.

With the build-up to the meeting dominated by fears of a clash, the two literally clashed physically at one point on the red carpet, Merkel gently ushering Hollande back on track.

The journey across the Rhine was anything other than auspicious, with Hollande’s presidential Falcon forced to return to Paris “for safety reasons and as a precaution” after being hit by lightning.

At the highly awaited news conference, Merkel said the fact he made it to Berlin despite the unlikely event of a lightning strike was “maybe a good  men

for our co-operation.”

They made the most of what they could agree on, but Hollande warned ominously that “everything was on the table” concerning EU economic policy, ahead of a meeting of European leaders in Brussels on May 23rd.

“This meeting wasn’t intended to answer all the questions that have been asked, but was mainly meant for us to get to know each other better, to

establish ties, a working method, to find a solution together” to the crisis, said Hollande.

To a journalist’s question as to what language they spoke to each other, Merkel said they conversed “mainly in their native tongues” apart from a few words of English while waiting for their interpreters.

Hollande, famous for his sense of humour, said: “Even when speaking French, one can be understood by a German chancellor. And similarly, even when speaking German, a chancellor can be understood by a French president.”

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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel and Macron to meet for dinner in Berlin on Friday

French President Emmanuel Macron will have dinner with Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday - the first time this year the German chancellor has received a foreign leader in person, her spokeswoman said.

Merkel and Macron to meet for dinner in Berlin on Friday
Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Pool Getty Images/AP | Leon Neal

The working dinner at the chancellery will focus on “European policy issues”, government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said on Monday.

Talks will focus on the “coordination between Germany and France” ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on June 24-25, she said.

The dinner meeting comes after G7 leaders gathered in England at the weekend for their first in-person summit in almost two years.

VIDEO: Watch Merkel’s funniest momentsĀ 

World leaders were also meeting in Brussels on Monday for the first NATO summit with US President Joe Biden.

Subjects on the agenda included how to deal with China’s rise and confronting an emboldened Russia, ahead of a meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

At the EU summit, leaders are due to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, economic recovery, migration and external relations, including with Turkey and Russia.

At an online Franco-German council of ministers in May, Macron paid tribute to the German chancellor, who is bowing out of politics this year after 16 years in power.

“This last council allows me to say how much the Franco-German relationship owes to your commitment, your willingness to take action, sometimes your patience with us, and your ability to listen,” Macron said.

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