No easy ride for EU-US even with Biden’s francophone team

Fabien ZAMORA –

US president-elect Joe Biden’s appointment of French speakers to top positions has cheered Paris but France knows it will take more than mother tongue chats to overcome transatlantic strains, even after the departure of Donald Trump.
As his future secretary of state, Biden has named former deputy national security adviser Anthony Blinken, who spent part of his childhood in France and is fluent in French.
The special envoy for climate, former secretary of state John Kerry, spends his holidays in Brittany, while Michele Flournoy, in the running for defense secretary, studied in Belgium where she learned French.
The atmosphere of exchanges with this team is likely to be markedly more cheerful than contacts with the Trump administration that culminated in a frosty closed door visit to Paris this month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
But an extra dose of bonhomie will not make strategic disagreements — that range from the future of Nato to policy towards China — go away.
Indeed, with conspicuous timing days after Biden’s election victory was confirmed, a French journal published a mammoth interview with Macron where he outlined his vision for a Europe that acts independently of the United States. Europe should have “strategic autonomy”, he told Le Grand Continent, adding that it should “not become the vassal of this or that power and no longer have a say”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was “particularly happy” about Blinken’s appointment as he had worked with him while serving as French defence minister.
A French government source described Blinken as “francophone and francophile” and said he and Le Drian used the informal “tu” for “you” when speaking. — AFP