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French President heads to Germany for rare state visit

IANS | May 26, 2024 12:03 PM

BERLIN: Emmanuel Macron begins the first state visit to Germany by a French President in 24 years on Sunday, a pomp-filled three-day trip described as a tribute to the Franco-German friendship.

 Macron is due to arrive in Berlin at 2 pm (1200 GMT). He will head first to the government district, where the "Democracy Festival" celebrating 75 years of Germany's Basic Law - the democratic constitution adopted in West Germany after World War II - will be held.

At the time, West Germany was under occupation by the victorious Western Allies, which included France, Britain and the United States.

Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will engage in an on-onstage discussion at the festival. The French leader will then travel to Steinmeier's nearby official residence, the Bellevue Palace, where he will be greeted with military honours. A joint press conference by the two presidents will follow in the late afternoon.

A walk through the Brandenburg Gate with Berlin Mayor Kai Wagner and a state banquet at Bellevue Palace is scheduled for the evening.

Sunday's visit comes ahead of European elections to decide the next European Parliament. Far-right EU parties have seen a surge in support in recent years - including in France and Germany - and are expected to do well in the June 6-9 polls.

The relationship between Paris and Berlin has long been seen as the driving force of European policymaking. But frictions began to emerge in 2022, after Angela Merkel left the German political scene, although Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have recently made efforts to improve cooperation.

The agreement has been found on several issues, including reform of the EU's debt and deficit rules, but other points of contention remain, notably on the type of military aid for Ukraine and the EU's economic policy responses to protectionist measures by China and the United States.

These thorny questions and others will discussed at a meeting of French and German ministers on Tuesday.

Macron and his wife Brigitte will be travelling to Dresden on Monday. There, he will give a speech on European policy in front of the Frauenkirche, a monumental domed church and a symbol of post-war reconciliation.

On Tuesday, they will travel to Munster, where Macron will be awarded the Peace of Westphalia Prize.

Macron came to power in France seven years ago and cannot run for a third term in the 2027 presidential election.

The official state visit is the first by a French president to Germany since 2000, although leaders from both countries regularly meet and visit in less formal ways. Macron had planned to make the state visit last July.

However, the trip was postponed due to nationwide unrest in France following the deadly police shooting of a 17-year-old that shocked the nation.

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