G-20 Leaders Pose by Trevi Fountain, Macron and Johnson Face Off
(Bloomberg) -- In many ways, this was the real Group of 20 summit “family photo” as leaders lined up Sunday morning against the stunning backdrop of Rome’s Trevi fountain -- where legend has it that if you toss a coin in with your back turned, you’ll come back to the Eternal City.
A lot can be revealed from the optics of these things. Who gravitates toward who as everyone tries to appear spontaneous and jolly but cannot always hide the tensions at play. There was not much hiding the friction between France’s Emmanuel Macron and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, who met straight afterward for about 30 minutes.
The two men are in a public face-off over Brexit and fish -- they had a falling out at this year’s Group of Seven meeting too but this time it’s more serious. As the leaders stood in line, Macron strolled over, did a fist bump with Johnson and then squeezed in to occupy the spot next to Italy’s Mario Draghi, the host. It was in its own way as telling a moment as when Macron squeezed Donald Trump’s hand until it turned white. The French leader signaled he was going to hold his ground.
The one who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself was Germany’s Angela Merkel, a lover of all things Italian. The departing veteran of countless summits was given pride of place at the center of the line-up. The small square in front of the 18th century fountain is usually thronged by tourists, street vendors and the odd pickpocket.
Merkel dipped her right hand into the water and rubbed her hands together, smiling delightedly. When she comes back it will be as a tourist herself. She is looking forward to retirement but her experience, ability to compromise and a deft touch will be missed in such gatherings.
By contrast a serious-looking Macron, facing re-election next year, stared down at the coin in his open palm, moving his hand up and down as if weighing the object. Perhaps thinking ahead of his one-to-one with Johnson.
Draghi and Johnson led the way into the square, a deliberate act of choreography given the U.K. will take over as host in Glasgow for the climate talks that have dogged the G-20. U.S. President Joe Biden did not take part, but that could have been for security reasons. The narrow cobbled roads leading to the fountain are problematic to police, and the Cadillac limo that shuttles Biden around, otherwise known as “The Beast,” would struggle to get through.
There was of course no attempt to recreate the iconic scene of Federico Fellini’s classic 1960 movie La Dolce Vita, in which the actress Anita Ekberg took a night-time dip in the fountain’s waters with Marcello Mastroianni.
After their picture the group dissolved. The leaders waved, clapped, and finally took a few moments to admire the monument. Draghi led them briskly away. Back to business and tough negotiations.
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