Emmanuel Macron Takes Charge of His International Agenda at the NATO Summit Before a Tense Weekend in France
Following the recent riots in France and ahead of the Bastille Day ceremonies amid a cabinet reshuffle, President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend the NATO summit in Vilnius. However, this does not mean that Macron's focus will be elsewhere during this event.
Vilnius: High Security, High Stakes
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania and situated on the doorstep of Russia, is hosting the gathering of NATO member states. Several key topics will be discussed, including the integration of Sweden into the Alliance, which was approved by Turkey on Monday, July 10. The summit also aims to send a message of support to Ukraine as it continues its challenging counter-offensive against Moscow.
Symbolically, this meeting of 31 leaders is taking place on July 12 and 13, a mere 35 kilometers from the Belarusian border, an ally of Moscow, and in close proximity to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to attend the summit, emphasizing the significance of the event.
A Turning Point
The Vilnius summit aims to "contain Russia," according to the presidency. It also provides an opportunity to reaffirm that Ukraine will one day join NATO. Macron, who previously described NATO as suffering from "brain death" in 2019, now sees the alliance as "reinvigorated" by the war, stating that it was the "worst wake-up call."
However, the alliance remains divided. While NATO does not provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, the United States has promised to deliver cluster munitions, a controversial weapon banned in France.
Resuming the Presidential Agenda
The primary purpose of this trip is to demonstrate that the presidential agenda is back on track, marking a turning point after the urban violence sparked by the death of young Nahel in Nanterre. During the riots, Macron had to hastily return from a European Council meeting in Brussels and even cancel a state visit to Germany at the beginning of the month.
Rumors of Reshuffling Continue
For Macron, this marks a new phase, following the recent riots and preceding a crucial weekend for national affairs. In addition to the diplomatic summit, the President must evaluate the "100 days of appeasement" just before the Bastille Day ceremonies against the backdrop of a cabinet reshuffle.
However, the government remains cautious as the national celebration approaches. All eyes will be on the night of Thursday to Friday, with the risk of new violence. Despite being far from Paris, this NATO summit in Lithuania does not necessarily offer a breath of fresh air for Macron and his government. Several advisors and close allies of the President continue to fuel reshuffle rumors. Some speculated that it would happen over the past weekend or early this week, but the window of opportunity appears to have closed. "This only prolongs the arduous process," says an important presidential advisor.
Maintaining Focus at the NATO Summit
Attending the NATO summit in Lithuania does not mean that Macron's attention will be diverted entirely. The President is aware of the expectations during this week, which also marks the end of the "100 days of appeasement and action" that he promised after the pension reform. Upon his return from Lithuania, Macron will assume the role of Commander-in-Chief with the traditional speech at the Hôtel de Brienne on Thursday evening. This speech is intended to "set the course and provide strategic guidance," according to the Elysee.
The weekend will also be marked by the reception of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the guest of honor for the Bastille Day celebrations and the traditional military parade.