Macron calls for defense of democracy during Germany visit

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Emmanuel Macron, Macron

On Sunday, May 26, French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a significant and urgent state visit to Germany, the first such visit by a French leader in a quarter of a century. This trip, loaded with political and historical implications, underscores the crucial need for cooperation between the two major European Union nations amid rising nationalism and the upcoming European Parliament elections. Macron’s plea to defend democracy against the growing tide of authoritarianism and nationalist sentiment was the central theme of his visit.

Macron’s first stop was a democracy festival in Berlin, where he addressed the crowd alongside German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He warned of a “form of fascination for authoritarianism which is growing” in both France and Germany. “We forget too often that it’s a fight” to protect democracy, Macron emphasized, highlighting that the preservation of democratic values requires constant effort and vigilance. He pointed out that if nationalist parties had held power in Europe in recent years, the course of history, particularly concerning the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would have been markedly different.

President Steinmeier echoed Macron’s concerns, stressing the necessity of forming a robust alliance of democrats in Europe. He noted the stark differences in the political landscape compared to previous elections, urging for a united front to safeguard democratic principles.

The urgency of Macron’s visit is underscored by the forthcoming European Union elections, set to take place in two weeks. Polls indicate a potentially significant embarrassment for Macron, with his centrist coalition trailing behind far-right parties. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) poses a considerable threat, while in Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is leading in polls, surpassing the three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition despite ongoing scandals.

Macron’s rhetoric at a press conference was resolute as he vowed to “unmask” the RN, declaring that “nothing in their rhetoric holds water.” He expressed his refusal to accept the normalization of the RN as just another party, emphasizing that their rise in the polls represents a significant threat to European unity and democratic values.

Macron’s warnings are not new; they are part of a broader strategy he has been advocating. In a keynote address on foreign policy last month, he highlighted the existential threats facing Europe, particularly in light of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. “Our Europe, today, is mortal and it can die,” Macron had cautioned. “It can die, and this depends only on our choices.”

In Berlin, Macron intensified his call to action, urging Europeans to vote for parties that defend and uphold European values. Hosting a state banquet for Macron, President Steinmeier also addressed the threats posed by Russia, underlining the need for Europe to enhance its defenses and societal resilience against both external and internal threats.

After his discussions in Berlin, Macron planned to extend his message to Dresden in the former East German state of Saxony, a region where the AfD enjoys significant support. This part of the visit underscores the importance of engaging directly with communities that feel alienated or disillusioned, aiming to counteract the appeal of far-right ideologies.

On Tuesday, Macron will continue his tour in the western German city of Munster and later Meseberg, outside Berlin, for talks with Chancellor Scholz and a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting. These engagements aim to reinforce the historic and strategic partnership between France and Germany, which has long been considered the engine of the European Union.

Beyond making joint appeals for the European elections, Macron’s three-day visit seeks to emphasize the historical importance of the postwar relationship between France and Germany. Next month, France will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which marked the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s occupation during World War II. This historical context adds a poignant layer to Macron’s visit, underscoring the long-standing alliance and cooperation between the two nations.

However, the Franco-German relationship has not always been smooth. German officials have occasionally expressed unease with Macron’s assertive and sometimes theatrical approach to foreign policy. For instance, Macron’s recent comments on the potential deployment of troops to Ukraine drew a sharp rebuke from Scholz, who clarified that Germany had no such plans. Furthermore, Germany’s cautious stance on European strategic autonomy, preferring a strong alliance with the United States, contrasts with Macron’s vision of a more independent Europe.

Despite these differences, Macron remains optimistic about the Franco-German relationship. He highlighted successful coordination between the two nations on key issues such as sanctions against Russia and initiatives to spur European economic growth and innovation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Franco-German relationship is about disagreeing and trying to find ways of compromise,” noted Helene Miard-Delacroix, a specialist in German history at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

Why Now? The Urgency Behind Macron’s Visit

Macron’s visit is driven by the pressing need to counteract the rise of nationalist parties and to rally support for democratic values ahead of the European elections. The trip, the first state visit by a French president since Jacques Chirac’s in 2000 and only the sixth since Charles de Gaulle’s postwar visit in 1962, is a testament to the enduring significance of the Franco-German alliance.

As France prepares to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which symbolize the triumph of democracy over tyranny, Macron’s urgent call to defend democracy resonates deeply. The outcomes of the upcoming European Parliament elections will significantly shape the future of the European Union, making Macron’s plea for unity and vigilance more critical than ever.

Macron’s state visit to Germany underscores the ongoing struggle to defend democratic values in Europe. His urgent call to action against the rising tide of nationalism and authoritarianism highlights the importance of unity and cooperation between France and Germany. As both nations face pivotal moments in their political landscapes, Macron’s visit serves as a powerful reminder of the need to protect and uphold the democratic principles that form the foundation of the European Union.

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