‘Place of ultimate reconciliation’ Macron and Merkel to attend ceremony
President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel will this afternoon seek to transform a place of Franco-German enmity and revenge, the glade where the armistices of 1918 and 1940 were signed, into what a presidential adviser called “the place of ultimate reconciliation”.
The two leaders will review troops from the Franco-German brigade, considered the nucleus of a European army. They will sit down to sign the guest book at Marshal Ferdinand Foch’s table, in a railway car that is an exact replica of the one where the Armistice was signed 100 years ago.
All four of Macron’s great-grandfathers, three Frenchmen and a Briton, fought in the Great War. Macron often quotes the first World War leader Georges Clemenceau saying every French person owes a debt of gratitude to the poilus.
Right-wing media criticised Macron for saying he did not want commemorations to be “too military”. Others objected when the army said an homage at Les Invalides to the eight field marshals of the first World War would include Philippe Pétain, the hero of Verdun who went on to lead the collaborationist Vichy regime in the 1940s. Macron initially defend Pétain’s record as a “great soldier” in the first World War. Then the government switched signals, saying Pétain would not be honored.
Tonight, Paris will become “the capital of the centenary” when the president and first lady Brigitte Macron invite more than 70 heads of state and government and international organisations to an exhibition of Picasso’s blue and pink periods at the Musée d’Orsay, followed by dinner in the museum.
Tomorrow morning, the same dignitar- ies will reconvene at the Arc de Triomphe, where Macron will deliver his main address. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will represent Ireland.
Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to attend. They were to have met on the sidelines of the commemoration to discuss the US withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. But Mr Trump said on Monday that the meeting will “probably not” happen in Paris.
The American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Béninoise singer Angélique Kidjo will perform at the Arc de Triomphe. The European Youth Orchestra will play Ravel’s
Bolero. Ravel was a frontline lorry driver during the first World War.
Four lunches will follow the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe. Heads of state and government will dine at the Élysée with the Macrons, foreign ministers at the foreign ministry, the military at Les Invalides and local officials and parliamentarians at the prime minister’s office.
At 3.30pm tomorrow, Chancellor Merkel will deliver the opening address at the Paris Peace Forum at the Grande Halle de La Villette. The Élysée expects 10,000 people to participate in the forum from November 11th to 13th.
The goal of the Peace Forum is “to discuss peace today, the way we must organise and act collectively to promote not only lasting peace but . . . just development, democratic rights and freedoms and preservation of the environment,” the Élysée said.
Macron wants the Peace Forum to become an annual “political Davos”.
Right-wing media criticised Macron for saying he did not want commemorations to be ‘too military’