Elisabeth Borne travels to Berlin

Paris President Emmanuel Macron will send his Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to Berlin on Friday. The 61-year-old pays Chancellor Olaf Scholz her inaugural visit and meets Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck. Not an easy task diplomatically: it is supposed to cement the Franco-German relationship.

In circles at their official seat in Matignon, it was said that the “enthusiasm to strengthen relations between France and Germany” was important against the background of the Ukraine war. It’s supposed to put you in a good mood. Recently, there have been obvious tensions between the partners due to a lack of communication and different attitudes on energy and defense issues. At the end of October, even the Franco-German Council of Ministers was adjourned. The meeting is to be rescheduled in January.

For the first time in over 30 years, since Edith Cresson took office, a woman has headed the French government. When Macron was elected for the second time in the spring, he promised renewal. With a woman at the head of government, he sent a signal.

After two prime ministers who came from the conservative camp, she is a politician from the left wing of Macron’s party. She is considered loyal and has government experience, a “technocrat”, wrote the daily Le Figaro. Other images were also tried: “Swiss knife”, for example, so versatile. Or that of the bridge builder.

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The sober, pragmatic Borne could get along better with Scholz than the president, who was initially described as the all-powerful “Jupiter”. Confidants explained that she was by no means lacking in courage, that she was hands-on. Borne demands a lot, which is why her employees sometimes call her “Borne out”.

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Alexis Kohler, the general secretary of the Elysée Palace and Macron’s closest confidant, recommended her. He told Le Monde newspaper: “Everywhere she went, she left her footprint of reform.” Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe praised her for being intelligent and decisive. “She finds the way to reach the goal.”

She comes from the Socialists, worked under the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and stands for a social economic policy. Under Macron she held several ministerial posts.

Borne has worked his way up

Born in Paris, Borne has worked her way up the ranks. She lost her father early and grew up in difficult circumstances under state care, but still attended elite schools for engineering.

She was president of the Paris public transport company RATP and thus recommended herself in 2017 as Minister for Transport, later for the Environment and Labour. When she took office, she declared that she stood for social justice and equal opportunities – and demanded that she be called “Madame la Première ministre”, Madam Prime Minister.

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She has proven her tenacity: As Minister of Transport, she pushed through the railway reform and abolished railway workers’ privileges. As Labor Minister, she was responsible for reforming the labor market. She soberly explained her method: “I was an engineer, a prefect and an entrepreneur. I believe in results, not labels.”

Sometimes she comes across as a little strict and high-school. A confidant of the Elysée Palace about her: “She works, she delivers what is asked of her.” Angry tongues say that Macron, who “loves steak and wine”, is bored with the austere jogger. She reacts coolly, saying she has “the trust” of the President.

The divorced mother of one son is discreet about her private life. She only spoke about the drama of her childhood: the suicide of her father when she was eleven years old, a Jewish resistance fighter who was deported to Auschwitz and was able to escape.

She now has to prove her ability to engage in dialogue in Berlin

She has earned the respect of her peers for keeping calm. She doesn’t allow herself to be provoked by comments like “she talks like a GPS” and was only a “Plan B”, an emergency solution for Macron.

Before that, under Prime Minister Jean Castex, Macron had usurped everything. Borne managed to step into the limelight – without eclipsing Macron. She values ​​dialogue and looks for political compromises, while in France there is little willingness to do so. So she pushed for a major consultation with the social partners before the planned pension reform to clear up any misunderstandings.

She now has to prove her ability to engage in dialogue in Berlin. It is about issues such as Europe’s response to the US subsidy program Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provides for billions in funding for climate-friendly technologies, solidarity between France and Germany in mutual energy supplies and renewable energies.

In France, the prime minister is always a kind of lightning rod for the president. If Borne manages to create positive momentum, the point goes to Macron. If she fails, it’s her fault.

More: Habeck announces “strong response” from Europe to US subsidies

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