G20, Biden woos Europeans Praise to Draghi, apologies to Macron

from Viviana Mazza

The American president to the premier and to Mattarella: “Extraordinary work”. And on the submarine affair he admits: “We were clumsy.”

“Thanks. It’s nice to be back here, ”President Joe Biden said in the Vatican yesterday morning, between handshakes and smiles, before a long and intimate meeting with Pope Francis. “Thank you”, he repeated in bilateral relations with the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella and with the Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

A warmer and less solemn version of “America is back”, with which last June he proclaimed a turning point from the Trump era.

In the four months since his first overseas trip as president, European allies have seen Biden’s popularity drop at home, divisions in his party shake the agenda on public spending and climate, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan put its international vision is in doubt. If in the press conferences in August Biden had refused even to admit that there had been criticism from Europeans, on this day of bilaterals that saw the gigantic presidential procession of 85 vehicles parade in the streets of the capital on the eve of the G20 summit, the diplomatic effort to show that America needs the friendship of Europe and focuses on the transatlantic link.

“You’re doing an extraordinary job. We need to show that democracies can work and that we can produce a new economic model. You’re doing it, ”Biden told Draghi, in a meeting that cemented the Italian premier as Washington’s key interlocutor in Europe. Biden also thanked Mattarella «For the leadership of the G20 on climate, fight against Covid and recovery “in a 45-minute interview. Then he saw President Emmanuel Macron at Villa Bonaparte, the Paris embassy to the Holy See, technically on French territory, elevating the meeting from a simple bilateral one.

“No ally is more ancient and loyal than France”, Biden said, admitting that the United States was “clumsy” in the submarine deal, that is the Aukus pact, signed in September with Great Britain and Australia for supplying the latter with nuclear technology, which blew up a lucrative deal between Paris and Canberra. “I had the impression that France had been informed before, I swear to God”. The admission of a mistake by a president who has decades of experience in foreign policy thus closes the incident with France, which had come to compare Biden to Trump and recall the ambassador. “We have clarified,” Macron concluded. Then: “Trust is like love: affirmations are good, facts are better.” London and Paris, on the other hand, have yet to “clear up” the dispute, sharpened by the clash over fishing rights in the Channel.

Thus began the G20 of leaders. Biden’s adviser, Jake Sullivan, says that the absence of Xi and Putin is not an obstacle but an opportunity to demonstrate that Western democracies know how to work together to solve global challenges. But Biden cannot lose sight of the challenges at home: even from Rome, explains his spokesperson, he will be on the phone to resolve the tug-of-war in Congress.

October 29, 2021 (change October 29, 2021 | 23:46)

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G20, Biden woos Europeans Praise to Draghi, apologies to Macron