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France's Macron bids 'adieu' to Merkel

November 4, 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron took Germany's Angela Merkel to the Burgundy town of Beaune as part of her farewell visit. He presented her with France's highest award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk through a square crowded with onlookers in Beaune, France
On Merkel's farewell tour to France, host Emmanuel Macron opted for a truly French experience in Burgundy Image: Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a warm sendoff to Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, praising her for helping keep Europe together during times of crisis.

Rather than a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Macron opted for a more rustic French experience in the heart of France's Burgundy wine-growing region.

Macron thanked Merkel for showing patience since he became president and teaching him lessons along the way, as he presented her with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor — France's highest accolade.

"Since you have become chancellor, France has learned to know you and to love you," he said, presenting the award.

A succession of crises

Macron pointed out that Merkel had first worked with French president Jacques Chirac and then Nicolas Sarkozy to deal with the financial crisis and keep the eurozone together. She had then, he said, worked with Francois Hollande to face terrorism and tackle the immigration crisis, and with himself to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You have worked to keep Europe together throughout all these shocks. I hope that the lesson you have left us with, to stand firm against strong headwinds and to make sure that everybody remains united and that things do not fall apart, that this will stay with us," Macron said.

Hundreds of locals had earlier gathered in Beaune's town square at sunset while the two couples visited a wine shop and received flowers and wine.

"This is a wonderful place where you can really experience France," Merkel said.

Writing on Twitter in French and German, Macron said: "Welcome to Beaune dear Angela. France loves you." 

Town with a fraternal past

In 1993, then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Francois Mitterrand called for closer European integration during a Franco-German summit in Beaune.

During a joint Franco-German Cabinet meeting in June, which was Merkel's last, Macron thanked her for her work improving bilateral relations.

At that meeting, Macron told Merkel: "Allow me to say how much the Franco-German relationship owes to your commitment, your determination, sometimes your patience with us, and your ability to listen."

Merkel is standing down after 16 years at the helm in Germany. She will finally relinquish her duties when parties hammering out a coalition in Germany are able to form a government, which they hope to do by December.

ar/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)