The UN Or The Clock Of Truth By Michaël Darmon


Securing the grail of the right schedule forces presidential advisers to win the battle of the year

When Emmanuel Macron went to the UN platform, the Elysian advisers already knew that the speech was successful. For one reason only: it was 2 p.m. in New York, 8 p.m. in Paris. On the other side of the Atlantic, news channels and radio stations were on the starting line for special editions. The three blows of the diplomatic table of the presidential return were given: Emmanuel Macron, special agent of peace.

We were off for the big 25-minute speech: castigating Russia, pointing out neutral or cautious states, encouraging Ukraine. The desk took for its rank under the blows struck by the French president. « Tune in », « fists on the i »: the presidential vocal cords were put to the test, presidential anger perched high. We even came close to the egosillation of the Porte de Versailles in 2017.

Ludovic MARIN / AFP
Ludovic MARIN / AFPFrench Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and French President Emmanuel Macron walk down Park Avenue to join the Global Fund meeting in New York on September 21, 2022.

Once again, the blueprint of the republican monarchy came into play: the mastery of the clocks, in this case of their offset.

Those who knew the backstage of a General Assembly tell it bluntly: the diplomats who work on the UN speech know very well that it will be followed only by diplomats and political journalists. Hence the only criterion for judging its success: the time of passage, interesting for the national audience.

The media sounding board will give the stamp: “important speech, firm tone, displayed will”. In these moments, the leaders appreciate the news channels that they castigate all the time, since the information does not seem to fit with their « com plan ».

Securing the grail of good timing forces presidential advisers to win the fiercest diplomatic battle of the year. The head of the clock commando is the ambassador to the United Nations, under pressure one week a year when « the boss », the nickname given internally to the presidents of the republic, is present.

Whatever he may do during the year, his rating and the rest of his career depend on the times the president is on the UN platform. The last week of September is the « terrible days » of the members of the diplomatic cell. In the event of a malfunction, the great forgiveness of the boss will be difficult to obtain.

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In the time of Emmanuel Macron’s predecessors, there were dramas: a speech by François Hollande at 9 p.m. in Paris. In other words, a trap door.

One year, during his mandate, Nicolas Sarkozy was badly programmed. The advisers began to propose a barter with the other States: France could adopt measures favorable to the neighbor against a change of place on the timetable. When they talk about it today, they admit a somewhat borderline game: the floor of France could be engaged for a question of the order of passage on the podium. But, they continue, this method was only acceptable for one reason: no one remembers a speech by a head of state at the UN podium.

One year, during his mandate, Nicolas Sarkozy was badly programmed. The advisers began to offer a barter: France could adopt measures favorable to the neighbor against a change of place on the timetable

Engaging in this little memory game confirms this assertion: it is difficult to remember a formula, a sentence that has remained in the memories pronounced at this podium, except perhaps the speech of Yasser Arafat, revolver in his belt…

This is also the reason – certainly – why the cameras most often stay close to the speaker: the room is regularly empty. Apart from the stars Obama, Trump, Biden and today Zelenski, the speeches of heads of state are not successful in the UN room, an enclosure that we discover for the first time with emotion and surprise in front of the furniture. deliberately stripped and sometimes decrepit.

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Ludovic MARIN / AFPRwandan President Paul Kagame, French President Emmanuel Macron and President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Felix Tshisekedi

The UN has long lost its luster, the time for historic and powerful decisions is over. More so since the health crisis. The institution is undergoing a version of the big quit, « the big resignation », and telework, which allows many international civil servants to stay in their country. Hence the rather gloomy atmosphere in the United Nations district, usually the world capital of globalization.

In the corridors of the UN General Assembly, the return to school for the leaders of the planet, realpolitik is the dominant code. Democrats bump into autocrats and greet each other, make appointments and schedule visits. As Iranian women burn their veils and defy the mullahs’ regime, Emmanuel Macron wants to see Iranian President Raisi. To talk about nuclear power or the police violence of the morality militias who killed a young woman?

The political scientist Frédéric Encel analyzed the speech of the French president delivered at the UN podium: « Basically, he repeated what has been said for months by addressing the former Third World countries which have freed themselves from the imperialisms by pointing out to them that Russia, which they support or tolerate, was the new invader in Ukraine. It is the form that has changed,” the analyst told France Info. While adding: « But firmness does not necessarily mean efficiency. »

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Everything is here.

By decreeing the partial mobilization of the Russians, Vladimir Putin did not respond to the philippic of Emmanuel Macron, which he ignored. Putin has other fish to fry.

The nasty tongues in the opposition castigate the weakness of French diplomacy, whose influence would be reduced « to that of a postage stamp ». One would be tempted to answer that a postage stamp is essential at the start of a missive.

But it is clear that this UN General Assembly, the first in person after three years of videoconferences, restores a worrying international panorama: the war in Ukraine is still going up a notch, the Sino-American confrontation is still active. , the extreme right won the elections in Sweden, it is preparing to take power in Italy.

In the Middle East, Lebanon is suffering while secretly negotiating a maritime gas zone agreement with Israel. Within the territory of the Abraham Accords, we breathe. And if the next General Assembly of the United Nations relocated to this region in full positive change? This would allow the European Union to take a closer interest in it and to take the measure of the immense strategic mistake it has made by ignoring this paradigm shift which frustrates the Palestinians. Another advantage: for the French president, the time difference is less important than from New York.

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