Politics & News

Macron Heads to Germany in First State Visit in 24 Years

French President Emmanuel Macron will head to Germany on Sunday for the first French presidential visit since 2000.

In the three-day state visit, from May 26-28, Macron and his wife will visit the capital Berlin, Dresden in the east and Muenster in the west. It will be followed by a bilateral cabinet meeting.

Rare Visit

While Macron frequently visits Berlin, this trip will be the first state visit in 24 years, after a trip by Jacques Chirac in 2000. It will be the sixth visit since the first postwar state visit by Charles de Gaulle in 1962.

The visit aims to mark “the permanence and depth of the Franco-German bond,” according to the Élysée. It comes at a time when Europe faces major challenges, from the Ukraine war, to the EU elections, and the possible return of Donald Trump to the White House.

What’s on the Agenda?

Macron’s trip starts Sunday afternoon with meeting in Berlin with the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, reported Reuters.

Macron Heads to Germany in First State Visit in 24 Years
Macron and the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

On Monday, he will travel to Dresden, in the former East Germany. There, he will deliver a speech in front of the Frauenkirche, destroyed during the allies bombing of the city during WWII.

On Tuesday, the French President will head to Muenster. Later on the same day, he will attend a cabinet meeting alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Meseberg, outside Berlin, to discuss issues of disagreement, notably defense and competitiveness.

Research fellow at the Committee for Franco-German Relations (Cerfa), Jeanette Süẞ, told Euronews that the aim of the visit is to “find points of convergence between France and Germany on subjects of the future like technology, innovation, artificial intelligence.”

Finding Middle Ground

Macron and Scholz have clashed over a number of issues, but they managed to reach compromises on many of them.

Süẞ said that both sides have made efforts to “revitalize the Franco-German relationship, which hasn’t always been at its best.”

Yann Wernert at the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin, told Reuters: “There are tensions in the German-French relationship but in part precisely because they have dealt with some difficult topics.”

In this respect, Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the Eurasia Group, noted that the visit is an attempt “at the highest political level to demonstrate that the relationship is working. But there are still fundamental gaps on major questions that are looming over the EU.”

Controversial Issues

There are clear political differences on many issues between the two countries, stemming from Macron and Scholz different leadership styles.

Macron Heads to Germany in First State Visit in 24 Years
Macron and Scholz

Nuclear power remains a thorny issue between France and Germany. While France relies on nuclear power to meet 70% of its power needs, Germany shut down its last nuclear plant in 2023.

On the Ukraine war, Macron has not ruled out sending ground troops to Ukraine, while Scholz rejects the idea, saying it would cross a red line for Germany.

European Defense

On European defense plans, France has pushed for a more self-reliant Europe, by commissioning European companies for its armament plans.

This push has been driven by concerns over the possible election of Trump as the next US president, after he said he would not protect NATO allies from a future attack by Russia.

Meanwhile, Germany is happy buying American equipment for its European Sky Shield Initiative for air defense. Berlin believes that the US military umbrella has no credible alternative at the time, and Europe cannot wait for a homegrown defense industry to counter Russian threats.

Far-right Surge

EU member states are heading to the polls next June for the parliamentary elections, with far-right parties on the rise across Europe.

Polls show that Eurosceptic parties could gain majorities in the upcoming EU elections. Both France and Germany will try to find a common ground on the EU agenda for the next five years.

In her remarks for Euronews, Süẞ said: “In Berlin, there will also be an important aspect on democracy and that also means countering the far-right which is currently rising in these upcoming EU elections.”

Mujtaba Rahman, of the Eurasia Group, noted that the EU would have an opportunity to advance more ambitious plans, between the parliamentary elections and establishment of the new leadership, and next summer before the German elections. He stressed the significance of this, especially if Trump won the November election.

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