- French President Emmanuel Macron sent off outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel in style, praising her accomplishments.
- Merkel will stand down after 16 years when a new German coalition government is formed, following a 26 September national vote.
- Macron hosted Merkel in the Burgundy wine region, presenting her with France's highest award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.
PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron gave Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel an affectionate and stylish send-off on Wednesday, praising her for keeping Europe united through years of crisis.
Welcoming her in the heart of the Burgundy wine region, rather than at a formal state dinner at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris – where Merkel has known four French presidents – Macron thanked her for her patience with him and the lessons she has taught him.
As he presented Merkel with France's highest award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, Macron said:
said Merkel had first worked with French president Jacques Chirac, then with
Nicolas Sarkozy to confront the financial crisis and keep the euro zone
together, with Francois Hollande to face terrorism and 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.
Champions of European integration
Macron and his wife Brigitte gave Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer a tour of the 15th-century Hospices de Beaune, a former hospital for the poor which now houses an annual charity auction of Burgundy wines.
At dusk, hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets as the two presidential couples walked around the cobble-stoned streets during Merkel's farewell visit to France as chancellor.
"This is a wonderful place where you can really experience France," Merkel said.
two leaders made no political statements in Beaune, where their predecessors
Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand called for closer European integration
during a Franco-German summit in 1993.
Both champions of European integration, Macron and Merkel worked together closely during the Covid-19 crisis, though they were not regarded as being as close as Merkel and her fellow conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president from 2007 to 2012. Their cooperation during the euro zone crisis earned them the moniker "Merkozy".
Merkel, 67, who has led her country for 16 years, will stand down when a new German coalition government has been formed following a 26 September national vote in which she did not seek re-election.
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