When David Cameron refused to meet the future French president François Hollande while he was on a campaigning visit to Britain earlier this year, it was viewed as "le snub". But in a move likely to raise the eyebrows of diplomats, the French head of state will exact his revenge this week when Ed Miliband becomes the first British politician to be invited to the Élysée Palace – before Mr Cameron.
The Labour leader and President Hollande will hold talks on youth unemployment in Europe over a working lunch on Tuesday. They are also likely to discuss the Tour de France, which Bradley Wiggins is expected to win today. Mr Miliband has been keeping an eye on the race and was was enthused by the way the French had taken the British cyclist to their hearts.
Mr Miliband, accompanied by his strategy chief Lord Wood, will meet the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and Martine Aubry, secretary general of the Parti Socialiste, for breakfast before a summit on youth unemployment with President Hollande.
A Labour source said: "There is a youth unemployment emergency across Europe. The economics of Cameron and Sarkozy have failed. We now need to work together, to have a co-ordinated plan for jobs and growth. We cannot allow the future of the European continent to sit idle because of the failure to deliver the jobs young people need."
Youth unemployment has hit record levels across Europe: 52 per cent of young adults are out of work in Spain, 36 per cent in Italy and, in Britain and France, 22 per cent.
Figures published last week showed there were 169,100 youngsters unemployed in the UK for more than six months, the highest since April 1997 when it was 174,000. Youth unemployment, up 83,000, has risen by 96 per cent in the past 12 months. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds out of work for more than a year in England and Wales is 68,200, the highest level since August 1997.
Mr Cameron declined to meet Mr Hollande in February when the French socialist leader visited London during his campaign to oust Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr Hollande and Mr Miliband had lunch in the Labour leader's Westminster office, and the two centre-left politicians have stayed in close contact since. The two leaders are planning to co-host an anti-austerity conference in Europe later this year.
Following Mr Hollande's victory in May, the new French President met Mr Cameron in Washington on the margins of the G20 summitlater that month, but relations continued to be frosty when the Prime Minister joked that he would "roll out the red carpet" for French businesses to come to Britain if President Hollande raised taxes on the wealthy. The President visited Mr Cameron for talks at Downing Street earlier this month, when both leaders attempted to present a cordial front.Reuse content