President Trump doesn’t have many friends in Europe. In countries like Germany and Spain, his approval ratings stand at 7 and 11 percent, respectively. He fares no better in the U.K., where the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K. has given way to the president publicly sparring with British lawmakers and even canceling a long-anticipated visit to London.
But if there’s one friend Trump can count on in a skeptical continent, it’s French President Emmanuel Macron, who this week was invited to the White House for the Trump administration’s first formal state visit. The date is not yet set.
While Trump has hosted a number of world leaders at the White House for working visits during his first year—including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—none of those meetings came with the trimmings of a formal state visit. In addition to a red-carpet welcome (complete with a 21-gun salute), Macron can also expect an elaborate state dinner organized by the first lady and an invitation to address Congress.
Trump’s decision to pick Macron for this honor is significant, both because of the timing (Trump is first president since Calvin Coolidge not to host a state visit during the first year of his presidency), and also because of what the visit represents. Despite their occasional awkward handshakes and differing political agendas, Macron and Trump have managed to foster a strong rapport during their respective first years in office—one that has been defined by a great deal of honesty. “Macron has been very open about how he disagrees with Trump on some areas—he’s a man of principle and Trump seems to respect him for the fact that he basically says what he means and talks directly to his face,” David Lees, a researcher on French politics at Warwick University told me. He noted it’s a level of respect the American president “hasn’t offered to the likes of [U.K. Prime Minister] Theresa May or [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel.”