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University Expert Available to Analyze State Visit by French President

Released: 11-Feb-2014 9:15 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Florida State University
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French President Francois Hollande’s visit this week to the United States marks the first official state visit by a French leader since 1996.

One of Florida State University’s nationally recognized experts is available to provide analysis and commentary on Hollande’s trip.

Patrick Merle, assistant professor, College of Communication and Information: (574) 276-8280; Patrick.merle@cci.fsu.edu

Merle spent several years working as a reporter and public relations specialist in Europe before turning to the academic world. He was recently published in the journal Electoral Studies for his work on the 2012 French parliamentary and presidential elections. He received his doctorate in mass communications from Texas Tech University.

On the importance of Hollande’s visit with Obama:

“There are three main reasons why it’s important. The first is the unique trait of the visit. It’s the first official state visit by a French president since 1996. Two, it’s important for historical reasons. France and the United States have had long, historical and cultural ties. And third, the current status of international affairs makes this relationship even more important. Considering the international context — with problems in Syria, with Iran, with Africa — it’s important to maintain those diplomatic ties.”

On the improved relationship between France and the United States:

“It’s obviously an interesting relationship to study. Some people have compared it to a rocky marriage.

People remember the disagreement in 2003, when the United States declared war in Iraq. Then-President Chirac decided not to engage in that conflict and criticized the U.S. for shooting first and thinking second.

Bush was not a popular president among French citizens. They always have a tendency to prefer liberal leaders instead of conservative ones.

The current dynamic makes it a lot easier to develop some projects and diplomacy, to talk about problems in Iran.”

On whether Hollande’s separation from his partner is a distraction:

“In the United States, there is an importance placed on the private lives of leaders. The press has put a lot of emphasis on Hollande’s private life and him coming as a single man on a state visit. That’s really a U.S. point of view.

The French press did cover the issue, but polls have shown a strong majority agreed with Hollande when he said his private life should remain private. The French population does not pay as much attention to the private lives of their leaders, whereas in the U.S., it is more important.”

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