Maverick Montebourg enters French presidential race

Former French economy minister Arnaud Montebourg on Sunday joined the race to become French president in next May's election, effectively signalling the start of the campaign season.

Maverick Montebourg enters French presidential race
Arnaud Montebourg delivering a speech. Photo: AFP

Maverick left-winger Montebourg is the third former minister from President Francois Hollande's Socialist government to declare his intention to stand as a candidate after former ecology minister Cecile Duflot and Benoit Hamon, who once headed the education ministry.

“I am a candidate because it is impossible for me to support Francois Hollande,” Montebourg told supporters in Burgundy.

“The results of his five-year term are simply indefensible,” Montebourg added, highlighting a still fragile economy and a rebellion by some lawmakers against Hollande's efforts to beef up national security in the wake of jihadist attacks that have killed more than 200 people in the last two years.

He called on Hollande to “think long and hard” about whether to stand for re-election. Montebourg, who left the government in 2014 as his criticism of Hollande grew louder, proposed re-introducing national service as France contends with the constant threat of attack.

A supporter of protectionism to safeguard the French economy, Montebourg also said that as president he would pull France out of EU treaties that did not serve its interests.

Hollande, whose approval ratings are the lowest of any French president in modern times, has said he will announce before the end of the year whether he will run again. Polls show he could still win the Socialist primary in January, which appears to be tailor-made for the unpopular president to re-assert his authority.

Duflot launched her bid Saturday in a letter to left-wing newspaper Liberation in which she conceded that the ecologists had “little space” in a race expected to be a three-way between the candidate of the right-wing Republicans, the Socialist candidate and the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to throw his hat into the ring as the Republicans' candidate in the next few days.

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Biden to host Macron for a state visit at the White House

President Joe Biden will host his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the White House on December 1st for the first full-scale state visit of his administration, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday.

Biden to host Macron for a state visit at the White House

The visit will “underscore the deep and enduring relationship between the United States and France, our oldest ally,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House.

State visits, which feature more pomp and ceremony than the frequent bilateral meetings hosted by US presidents for foreign leaders, have not taken place so far during Biden’s presidency, which Jean-Pierre attributed to Covid pandemic restrictions.

Asked why Macron had been chosen for the honor ahead of other US allies, Jean-Pierre said “we deeply value our relationship with France.”

The link between the two countries is “founded on shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation,” she said.

Relations between Paris and Washington hit a major crisis last year when Australia abruptly announced it was ditching a contract to buy conventional French submarines in favor of a US nuclear-powered submarine deal.

The US-Australia deal was part of the newly launched AUKUS security partnership, also including Britain, which Washington sees as part of its strategy to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region.

The French government, however, was furious, accusing Australia of “lying” and recalling its ambassadors both to Canberra and Washington.

However, tensions have since smoothed over, with Macron emerging as a key European partner for Biden in the response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented Western effort to help Ukrainian troops.

A source in the French presidency said the visit, culminating with a state dinner, will “underline the deep and enduring relations,” including on “close cooperation in defense and security areas.”

Biden and Macron met most recently at the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York and have also had “multiple conversations” over the last year and a half, Jean-Pierre said.