Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

New French Prime Minister Is a Specialist on Germany

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

New French Prime Minister Is a Specialist on Germany

Article excerpt

Jean-Marc Ayrault, 62, is a former German professor with a deep understanding of Germany's language and culture who has also forged close ties with members of the country's political establishment.

In selecting Jean-Marc Ayrault, a longtime ally and Germanophile, as his prime minister, President Francois Hollande sent a clear message on Tuesday that the new French government viewed constructive relations with Berlin as critical for the future of Europe and the euro.

Mr. Ayrault, 62, is a former German professor with a deep understanding of Germany's language and culture who has also forged close ties with members of the country's political establishment.

"He is seen as the man who understands Germany," Angelica Schwall- Duren, minister for European affairs for the German state North Rhine-Westphalia, said in a recent French radio interview. "He is a mediator. He could be of much help in making the Franco-German couple function well."

As a special adviser to Mr. Hollande's campaign, Mr. Ayrault lamented the "broken" state of a French-German friendship that he said "cannot function without a certain intimacy."

"The quality of relations between our two countries is fundamental to advancing" the European Union, Mr. Ayrault said in a statement on his personal Web site. "It needs consistency and stability. There is no alternative to lead all member states."

As a linguistics student at the University of Wurzburg in the early 1970s, Mr. Ayrault showed political sympathies on the far left. Among his early mentors was Jean Poperen, a former Communist leader. He named his first daughter, Ysabelle, after the daughter of Salvador Allende, the Chilean leader who was exiled in France at the time. But in the course of nearly four decades in French politics, Mr. Ayrault has cultivated a reputation as a centrist and a consensus builder.

His political career began early, when he was elected to the local council of Saint-Herblain, a suburb of Nantes, near the Atlantic coast, at the age of 26. …

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