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Trump Meets Macron, Again


Today President Trump is traveling to Paris. He will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and take part in a ceremony involving more than 60 world leaders to mark the centennial of the end of World War I. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports. The commemorations come at a time when the French president is deeply unpopular at home.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: A bustling Paris street market is a good place to buy fresh fruit and to hear how shoppers feel about their president.

DANIELLE STOLL: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: (Laughter).

Retiree Danielle Stoll says she has only bad things to say about Emmanuel Macron.

STOLL: (Through interpreter) He doesn't take into account what people think about him. And the French don't think well of him. We feel absolutely ignored and scorned by our president.

BEARDSLEY: Stoll says Macron ran as a candidate from the left. But with his tax cuts for businesses and the rich, he's turning out to be extremely capitalist and right-wing.

STOLL: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "It's not my idea of France," she says.

SOPHIE PEDDER: Change is uncomfortable. People don't like it. The French have had a very comfortable way of life in a way for a long time.

BEARDSLEY: That's Sophie Pedder, Paris bureau chief for The Economist magazine and author of a book about Emmanuel Macron and his attempts to reinvent France. Pedder says Macron's unpopularity is partly due to the fact that he's chipping away at the cherished social welfare system. But she says it's also about his controversial style.

PEDDER: He came in wanting to restore some dignity to the presidency. And the French tend to like their presence to be quite grand. But I suspect that that has reached a limit. You know, the French have started to have enough of that, and what looked like grand and dignified now looks increasingly like sort of arrogant and aloof.


BEARDSLEY: When Macron hosted President Trump in Paris on Bastille Day last year, he wowed him with a military parade. Then, both newly elected leaders had complete control of their legislatures. Both appeared at the top of their game. They got along so well reporters called it a bromance. Just over a year later, it's all so different. Trump now faces a hostile House of Representatives. And Macron has suffered a series of self-imposed image disasters that have made him exceedingly unpopular.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Yelling in French).

BEARDSLEY: One of his security advisers was caught on video roughing up demonstrators at a labor rally. Macron himself was videoed making comments to the public that many people found condescending.


EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: The French president went on national television in October and admitted he had made mistakes.


MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "I realize my determination and frankness shocked some people," he said. But Macron insisted he wouldn't divert from his plans to change France.


BEARDSLEY: This weekend, as world leaders gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Macron has also organized a peace forum to discuss the growth of nationalism. Christian Makarian of L'Express magazine says Macron's multilateral ideals seem out of place in today's unilateral world.

CHRISTIAN MAKARIAN: There is a gap between Macron's dreams and the reality of the world today. Mr. Trump, for instance, doesn't want any multilateral system ruling the world. We are in a very conflictual world where leaders can meet, as they will do in Paris, and then go back in their country and threaten again the rest of the world. That's what Putin does.

BEARDSLEY: Makarian says despite his best efforts, Macron has been unable to influence the behavior of either the Russian or the American president. And Trump has no plans to attend Macron's peace forum. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.