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Gauck warns of 'Europe fatigue' on last day of French visit

German President Joachim Gauck has wrapped up a three-day state visit to France in the southern city of Marseille. The French press has responded largely positively to his trip and efforts to promote Franco-German ties.

Speaking at a discussion with young French and Germans in the port city, Gauck expressed concern that European people and their governments were showing increasing "Europe fatigue."

"We have a kind of slackening in many areas," he said, referring to European integration. "That is why I would like things to liven up."

Gauck also warned about "populist parties that fan fears about Europe," adding that "we will not have a happy future if we go back to discrete nation-states."

Marseille is a bastion of the right-wing Front National, which backs policies opposed to Europe. The city has also been named European Capital of Culture for 2013.

'No German dominance'

Gauck went on to speak of the youth unemployment currently rife in several countries in Europe, including France, Spain and Greece. Calling the problem a "misery," he urged those affected to remain flexible.

"There are times when there is not much to be had at home," he said, pointing to the many East Germans who have moved to the west of the country to find work.

In his remarks at the discussion in the newly built museum Villa Mediterranee, Gauck maintained the conciliatory tone that has been the hallmark of his trip, and rejected the idea that Germany wanted to take on a dominant role in Europe.

"I see no politician in Germany who dreams of making Europe a German Europe," he said, and emphasized that France and Germany were inseparable allies.

Favorable press

On Wednesday, Gauck made a historic visit to the central French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the first high-ranking German politician to pay respects at a site that saw a bloody massacre by German SS soldiers in 1944 in which hundreds of civilians died.

The French press has reacted for the most part favorably to Gauck's visit to the site, with the conservative daily Figaro saying he deserved "admiration" and "respect." The newspaper "Liberation" spoke on Thursday of "strong gestures that mark a new stage in the long history of Franco-German reconciliation."

However, the regional paper "L'Alsace" criticized the fact that Gauck did not really apologize for what the SS had done in Oradour-sur-Glane. Gauck "did not utter this simple word: sorry," the paper wrote.

Gauck's visit to France was the first state visit by a German president for 17 years. He was accompanied by his partner Daniela Schadt.

tj/ccp (dpa, AFPD)