Emmanuel Macron heads to Germany in first French presidential state visit in 24 years

NEW DELHI: French President Emanuel Macron arrives in Germany on Sunday for a three-day state visit. This will be followed by a bilateral cabinet meeting as the two biggest powers in the European Union aim to demonstrate unity before the upcoming EU parliamentary elections.
Macron’s trip included visits to the capital Berlin, Dresden in the east, and Muenster in the west.This visit marks the first French presidential state visit to Germany in 24 years.
The visit will be observed as an assessment of the strength of the German-French relationship, which plays a key role in EU policymaking. This comes at a time when Europe is facing significant challenges, ranging from the conflict in Ukraine to the potential election of Donald Trump as the US president in November.
Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have contrasting leadership styles. They have had public disagreements on various issues such as defence and nuclear energy since Scholz assumed office in late 2021. Recently, they have managed to find compromises on different issues, including fiscal reform and adjustments to power market subsidies. This has enabled the EU to make agreements and present a more unified stance.
“There are tensions in the German-French relationship but in part precisely because they have dealt with some difficult topics,” said Yann Wernert at the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin, noting the two countries had also converged on the need to expand the EU eastwards.
The visit is “an attempt at the highest political level to demonstrate that the relationship is working,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group think tank. “But there are still fundamental gaps on major questions that are looming over the EU.”
One significant gap exists in European defense, especially if Trump emerges victorious in the November 5th US presidential election. Defense experts consider him to be a less reliably predictable ally for Europe compared to his Democratic rival, President Joe Biden.
Earlier this year the Republican former president not only said he would not protect NATO members from a future attack by Russia if those countries’ contributions to the defence alliance were lagging, but that he would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want.”
France, a country with nuclear weapons, has advocated for a more self-reliant Europe in defense issues. It has also been upset by Germany’s choice to predominantly purchase American equipment for its European Sky Shield Initiative air defense system.
Germany states that there is no credible alternative to the US military umbrella. Europe does not have the luxury of waiting for a homegrown defence industry to be ready to address threats like Russian hostility.
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Macron is accompanied by his wife Brigitte on his trip. They will start their visit on Sunday by meeting in Berlin with the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. After that, they will walk through the landmark Brandenburg Gate with the city’s mayor, Kai Wegner.
On Monday, he will travel to Dresden. He is scheduled to deliver a speech in front of the Frauenkirche. The Frauenkirche was destroyed by Western allies during the Second World War. After that, he will proceed to Muenster on Tuesday.
Perhaps the most significant part of the trip will be the cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Meseberg, which is just outside Berlin. The two governments will focus on finding common ground on the main issues they have struggled to agree on, specifically defense and competitiveness.
The two countries will also attempt to identify shared interests on the EU agenda for the upcoming five years. This is especially important due to the anticipated significant support for far-right parties in the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 6-9, which could complicate EU decision-making.
Rahman mentioned that the EU would have a good opportunity to progress with ambitious plans. This window falls between the parliamentary elections and the establishment of the new leadership, extending until next summer before the German elections. This would be especially important if Trump won the election, he said.
(With inputs from agencies)


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