Tuesday 16th of July 2024

under the chandeliers of a vanishing vassal of a decadent empire.....

PARIS: Beneath the crystal chandeliers of the gilded reception hall of the Elysee Palace, opened in 1889 with a party for 8000 people, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted US President Joe Biden, at a state dinner intended to celebrate a very old alliance and show the bond is greater than its intermittent frictions.

Biden, addressing the French leader as ‘‘Emmanuel’’, rose from a long table adorned with a bouquet of pink peonies and roses to say that ‘‘France was our first ally, and that is not insignificant’’.


BY Roger Cohen.


He cited a book, The Pocket Guide to France, that he said was distributed to the American forces who, eight decades ago, fought their way up the Normandy bluffs through Nazi gunfire to wrest Europe from tyranny.

‘‘No bragging,’’ Biden quoted the guide as saying. ‘‘The French don’t like that!’’ The book urged US soldiers to be generous – ‘‘it won’t hurt you’’ – and said the French ‘‘happen to speak democracy in a different language, but we are all in the same boat’’.

That ‘‘same boat’’ of 1944 was invoked repeatedly during Biden’s five-day visit to France as still being afloat today in the form of joint French and US support for Ukraine in the battle against Russia, defined as pivotal for the defence of European liberty. ‘‘We stand together when the going gets tough,’’ Biden said.

The going was scarcely that at a sumptuous dinner served at tables set between the fluted columns of a room conceived a century after the French Revolution to project the glory of the Republic.

Beneath golden caryatids and a painted ceiling medallion reading ‘‘The Republic safeguarding peace’’, liveried waiters in white bow ties, bearing silver trays, served with impeccable precision a four-course meal accompanied by Champagne and a 2006 Chateau Margaux.

A light salad turned plates into minor works of art adorned with fennel, green peas, other vegetables and assorted petals gathered around a puddle of vinaigrette. A dish of chicken, rice, artichoke and carrots followed – which sounds simple, except that, on a base of artichoke hearts, slivers of carrots of various colours had been curled into the likeness of a rose. A cheese course led to a finale of chocolate, strawberries and raspberries, again shaped like a rose, enlivened by a coulis of ‘‘carnal thorns’’, whatever that may be. In any event, it was very good.

Macron sleeps little, relishes fine cuisine and has a taste for the wine of the great French estates. In this he differs from his immediate predecessors, who had less time for culinary diplomacy, a French tradition that has endured through monarchy, empire and five republics.

‘‘We have institutionalised the diplomatic dinner, especially since Napoleon,’’ said Marion Tayart de Borms, a historian of French culinary arts. ‘‘That is why a new president always salutes his chef as one of his first gestures. Everything at the state dinner has a political and cultural sense, and must be balanced. What is at stake is not just in the plates.’’

Tables at the dinner had names that included Great Smoky Mountains, Cevennes, Everglades, Redwood, and La Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean that is an overseas department of France. French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, director Claude Lelouch (a favourite of Biden’s for his film A Man and a Woman) and a host of French senators and artists mingled with the likes of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former secretary of state John Kerry and tennis champion- turnedcommentator John McEnroe.

A military band played Amazing Grace during the main course, New York, New York just after it and My Way with the oozing Brillat-Savarin cheese. French contributions to the musical program included Charles Trenet’s La Mer and a George Frideric Handel sonata for cello and violin, with which the brothers Gautier and Renaud Capucon serenaded Biden and First Lady Jill to rousing applause.

When Macron opened the dinner, he assured guests that ‘‘this will be a toast, not a speech, and very short’’. Largely, and a little surprisingly, he kept his word. Addressing ‘‘dear Joe and dear Jill,’’ he spoke of the ‘‘spirit of 1776’’ that is always in the air when the French and Americans gather, an allusion to France’s decisive support for a nascent United States during the Revolutionary War.

American soldiers who on June 6, 1944, ‘‘gave their lives for a country they did not know’’ had helped forge ‘‘an unbreakable bond’’, Macron said. “Americans and French have a mutual fascination. We love the American dream. You like the French way of life. We are possessive of what distinguishes us, and we are the best of friends.”

In fact, the friendship can be prickly, and Macron, in good Gaullist tradition, is fond of saying that France will ‘‘never be the vassal of the United States’’. The two countries’ policies towards Ukraine and Israel are not precisely aligned. However, as the dinner demonstrated, a large reserve of goodwill tends to smooth over differences.

Biden’s timing was good in that Macron’s predecessors have been less inclined to culinary diplomacy. ‘‘It’s 15 years since we had a president who is a gourmet, who has a deep understanding of gastronomy, of its pleasures, but also its economic importance for France,’’ said tourism minister Olivia Gregoire. She described Francois Hollande, who was president from 2012 until Macron took office in 2017, as ‘‘liking good food but always watching his weight, not wanting to be fat, and so he was very strict’’.

As for Nicolas Sarkozy, who led France from 2007 to 2012, ‘‘he never drank wine, and lunched and dined extremely quickly’’.

Eric Duquenne, who was the chef at the Elysee Palace during the Sarkozy presidency, said that one state dinner for a visiting head of state lasted all of 35 minutes. ‘‘That was the record,’’ he said. ‘‘Sarkozy considered the table a waste of time. All he drank was Coke Zero or cranberry juice.’’

Duquenne recalled a state dinner for the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that had featured lamb cooked for seven hours to form a confit. ‘‘It was a perfect marriage of our tradition and theirs, which is what you want, because French hunters have traditionally given lamb to bakers to put in the bread oven for hours until it is unctuous and soft.’’

But of late, he said, culinary tastes have grown lighter, even at the Elysee Palace. The days of hunks of lamb, beef cheeks and game at state dinners have given way to poultry and fish, he said. ‘‘You no longer need to sleep right after eating.’’

A rousing rendering of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive swept away any possible drowsiness. It seemed to sum up the spirit of an evening in Paris dedicated to the idea that an old alliance is still relevant and essential to the survival of Ukrainian liberty.

The New York Times



hard to swallow....

Macron dissolves parliament as French far right makes crushing gains in EU elections

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday announced he was dissolving the lower house of parliament and called for new legislative elections after projected results showed his camp losing heavily to the far-right National Rally party in the European elections. Follow our liveblog for all the latest developments.


  • French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday announced he was dissolving parliament and called snap legislative elections for June 30 and July 7 after the far-right National Rally (RN) was projected to have trounced his centrist alliance in EU polls.The far-right group scored more than double the number of votes of the head of state's centrist alliance, projections indicated. 
  • Voter turnout in France was up two points as of 5pm, with 45.26 percent of eligible voters casting ballots compared with 43.29 percent in 2019. The turnout for EU elections is generally low, but the last elections in 2019 showed the first uptick in 30 years with a turnout of 50.7 percent. 
  • The French abstention rate is estimated to have dropped from some 50 percent in 2019 to 48.6 percent, according to polling by Ipsos-Sopra Steria on Sunday. 
  • Members of the European Parliament decide which laws apply across the European Union – from environmental regulation to security policy – as well as approve the EU budget and monitor how money is spent.
  • Each country’s representation at the European Parliament is based on population, with the most seats allocated to Germany with 96 seats and France with 81. At the other end of the spectrum, CyprusLuxembourg and Malta hold just six seats each.
  • View the projections and final results of the elections on our dedicated page. 





shocking news...

by Faina Savenkova


The world has changed. I can't say it's too unexpected, but it's still shocking. Macron did not invite Russia and Belarus to the anniversary of the Allied landings while Zelensky is one of the guests of honor. The French president does not care that Russia is legally the successor to the Soviet Union or that Zelensky elevated the SS of the SS Galicia division to the rank of heroes, he also forgets that the first French soldier to fall in Normandy was shot down by a Ukrainian auxiliary of the German army. Yes, Mr. Macron knows how to surprise.

The Russian army is capturing more and more French people in the special operation zone, just as more and more of them are dying in the fields of Donbass. I don’t know how much the French need this, but all of Mr. Macron’s actions and decisions say: “I'm going to bring in troops, I'm going to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles, I'm going to give them planes". It seems that Mr. Macron will go down in history as the president under whom a large number of French citizens will die. Thanks to his actions, he is increasingly moving from being the president of a major country to becoming a target of Russian missiles.

In my hometown of Lugansk, civilians are being killed by missile fire supplied to Ukraine by the merry man from his Élysée palace. Every day, I hear and see the bombings, the destruction, but Mr. Macron does not understand one thing: we will not abandon Lugansk. What will happen to France, with the continuation of a thoughtless policy? That's a big question. But this can and must only be asked of the French people. I have no more questions to ask Mr. Macron. He seems to have lost all contact with reality a long time ago.