Macron’s whisperers

Clément Beaune is the French Minister of State for European Affairs and a confidant of Emmanuel Macron.

When Clément Beaune became Minister of State for European Affairs in July 2020, he was known only to insiders in France. Since then, however, the 40-year-old has earned a reputation as an experienced European politician and is one of the best-known faces of the French EU Council presidency. He is France’s “Monsieur Europe“.

Beaming, he presented the program of the French presidency together with Emmanuel Macron at a press conference in the Elysée Palace in December. A great honor. But those present also sensed that there was “great pressure” on Beaune, as he himself admitted.

He has been completing one appointment after another for months, always appearing jovial, no matter how great the stress. Beaune has a reputation among his staff for being a workhorse, and that’s serving him well at the moment. That’s because hundreds of meetings on a wide variety of European issues are scheduled throughout France, especially in the first three months, before the French presidential elections. Then there are councils of ministers and summits.

Macron’s plans are extensive and ambitious. Beaune’s role is to conduct the government’s orchestra. How virtuosically he succeeds in this will also have an impact on the presidential elections in April. Macron has not yet officially declared his candidacy, but everyone assumes that he will run a second time. With the presidency of the Council, he is also the focus of interest, including abroad.

Beaune, the son of a professor of medicine and a nurse, is well prepared for the task. The former student of Sciences Po, the elite ENA school and the Collège d’Europe in Bruges is a close confidant of Macron. He was Macron’s European advisor at the Ministry of Economy from 2014 to 2016, and then followed him to the Elysée Palace, where he advised him on EU issues from 2017 to 2020. His influence exceeded that of many a minister.

Macron’s Sorbonne speech was penned by Beaune

Beaune, who used to be a socialist, belongs to the left-wing spectrum of Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) movement. He wrote many of Macron’s speeches, including the famous speech on Europe at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 2017.

During the presidential election, however, it could also be difficult for Beaune to dance at so many weddings. “He represents France in Europe and Europe in France and Macron to the French. That’s quite a lot,” Yves Bertoncini, President of the Mouvement Européen – France, a pro-European association, told L’Express. Bertoncini knows Beaune well because he was his professor at Sciences Po. It was there that Beaune also met the Green Party’s Franziska Brantner, now Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Economics. The two have maintained a good relationship ever since.

After years in the shadows as Macron’s advisor, Beaune was thrust into the spotlight: He became Secretary of State for European Affairs. He quickly got used to the public role. In the National Assembly, he vehemently represents Macron’s European ideas, appearing friendly and fearless. He is not put off by criticism: “Talking about Europe in the media is a constant battle,” he said. “Yet the EU is part of the everyday life of the French.”

Beaune is highly respected among European think tanks. Macron has finally appointed a secretary of state who matches European ambitions, they say. He knows his subjects and can negotiate well. Beaune is the best in the position since 20 years, some political scientists even emphasized.

Beaune himself has ambitious plans. He sees himself as a deputy in the French National Assembly or a minister in Bercy, the Ministry of Economy and Finance, should Macron be reelected. His well-cultivated network can help him with this.

Alexandre Adam – the man in the background

Beaune prepared the European Council presidency with Macron’s European advisor Alexandre Adam, who has been a good friend for 20 years. The two know each other from the Collège d’Europe. Adam, 41, succeeded Beaune as European adviser at the Elysée Palace in November 2020.

Adam comes from Strasbourg and knows Germany inside out. Like many strategic advisors, he has had a classic diplomatic career. He studied political science at the Institut d’études politiques (Sciences Po) in Strasbourg and then law at the University of Strasbourg.

Even then, he was interested in European affairs. After spending time at the Collège d’Europe, the hotbed of young talent for EU operations, Adam worked in various areas of the French Foreign Ministry and at the French EU representation in Brussels. The German Embassy in Berlin followed before he was appointed advisor for Franco-German affairs at the Elysée Palace at the beginning of Macron’s presidency. He worked under Beaune and therefore knew exactly his new job. He is appreciated in his environment for his calm, patient manner.

During the presidency, Adam has more of a background role. He is supposed to define what the priorities are and what should be worked on. Once a week, there is an informal meeting on the French Council Presidency, where the important issues are explained. With great patience, Adam repeatedly explains France’s ideas for Europe at briefings with journalists. So also the topics for Macron’s European speech on Wednesday before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Tanja Kuchenbecker


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