Brookings Institution senior fellow William Drozdiak takes a deep dive into the French presidency of Emmanuel Macron and the political challenges the French leader continues to face, including the populist insurrection in his own country and external forces weighing against the European Union.
Reading The Last President of Europe is like rewatching a Netflix series about the fluke election of an ambitious, dynamic young man to France’s highest office. We’ve seen the movie, but the plot was complicated ... Relying on unusual access to the Élysée and political circles in Washington, William Drozdiak, a veteran foreign correspondent and fellow at the Brookings Institute, lights up obscure corners with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and the wisdom of hindsight. He compensates for an occasionally dull narrative with faultless accuracy and documentation. His text is an indispensable reference book for the first half of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term ... This reviewer found the chapter titled 'Dealing with the Donald' most fascinating, though that may be more because of Donald Trump’s awfulness than Emmanuel Macron’s Sisyphean efforts to make the US president act like a reasonable, responsible leader.
Macron is an internationalist who believes that European civilisation is at stake in a crumbling world order. This is a highly readable, balanced and insightful analysis of his mission to save it ... Drozdiak is too ready to lay the blame for the lack of progress on Macron’s European reform agenda on Angela Merkel’s excessive caution. The German chancellor is portrayed as a roadblock to reform. But it was not only the Germans who were exasperated by his grandiose plans, which took little account of economic and political realities, including the near impossibility of changing the EU treaties ... Nonetheless, acknowledging Macron’s failures should not blind one to his unusual strengths ... Drozdiak sees in the French president Europe’s last chance to avoid irrelevancy, or even worse, if the populists win and succeed in reversing European integration.
Drozdiak’s is a largely admiring account of how Mr Macron recovered his poise after the gilets jaunes protests to become Europe’s most ambitious and visionary leader. Drawing mostly on newspaper reports, interviews with Élysée Palace advisers and the president himself, Drozdiak gives us a tidy primer on Mr Macron’s sophisticated world view ... It is a coherent and in many ways compelling argument. The question is whether it really needs distilling, since the president frequently and eloquently makes it himself, including in the pages of the Financial Times.