French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday sent German Chancellor Angela Merkelan a loving and elegant farewell, congratulating her for maintaining the unity of Europe during years of crisis.
Welcoming her to the heart of the Burgundy wine region rather than a formal state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris – where Merkel knew four French presidents – Macron thanked her for her patience with him and the lessons that she gave him.
“Since you have been chancellor, France has come to know and love you,” Macron said, presenting Merkel with the highest distinction in France, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Macron said Merkel worked first with French President Jacques Chirac, then with Nicolas Sarkozy to deal with the financial crisis and keep the euro zone together, with François Hollande to deal with terrorism and the crisis. immigration, and with himself to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You have worked to keep Europe united through all these shocks. I hope the lesson you have left us is to stand firm in the face of strong headwinds and to make sure that everyone remains united and that things don’t fall apart, that it will stay with us, ”Macron said.
Macron and his wife Brigitte showed Merkeland, her husband Joachim Sauer, the 15th century Hospices de Beaune, a former hospital for the poor which now houses an annual charity auction of Burgundy wines.
At dusk, hundreds of supporters lined the streets as the two presidential couples strolled the cobbled streets during Merkel’s farewell visit to France as chancellor.
“It’s a wonderful place where you can really experience France,” said Merkel.
The two leaders made no political statement in Beaune, where their predecessors Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand called for closer European integration at a Franco-German summit in 1993.
Both champions of European integration, Macron and Merkel worked closely during the COVID-19 crisis, even if they were not considered as close as Merkeland, his conservative colleague Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France from 2007 to 2012. Their cooperation during the eurozone crisis has earned them the nickname “Merkozy”.
Merkel, 67, who has ruled her country for 16 years, will step down when a new German coalition government is formed following a nationwide vote on September 26 in which she did not seek re-election.
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