Paris ‘invites’ the Queen, Obama for D-Day service

French President François Hollande is set to invite 16 world leaders to next summer’s 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings, including US President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, according to reports on Wednesday.

Paris 'invites' the Queen, Obama for D-Day service
Photo: Lewis Whyld/AFP

June 6th, 2014 will see a large-scale commemoration of the D-Day landings in Normandy, 70 years to the day after the operation that began the liberation of France from Nazi occupation.

To mark the historic occasion, French President François Hollande is set to personally invite 16  heads of state from around the world, among them US President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to French newspaper Le Parisien on Wednesday.

Ceremonies will be held at various key points along the coast of Normandy, “to mark France’s eternal acknowledgement of its allies,” according to Veterans Minister Kader Arif.

According to diplomats cited by Le Parisien, Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be invited to mark the anniversary, along with leaders from Canada, Poland and Norway, among others.

A visit to Normandy by Queen Elizabeth would be her first in honour of the D-Day landings, since 2004, the 60th anniversary.

In what looks set to be a particularly special commemoration, the British monarch will be invited to attend a ceremony on Sword Beach at Ouistreham, a stretch of coastline where British infantry landed on a section codenamed the “Queen Sector”, at dawn on June 6th, 1944.

SEE ALSO: Uproar over French wind park plan for D-Day sites

For his part, Obama is expected to attend events at Pointe du Hoc, a cliff face famously conquered by American Army Rangers, between Omaha and Utah beaches, on D-Day.

The Canadian contingent will be invited to Juno Beach, to mark the landing and assault there by the Third Canadian Infantry Division.

German Chancellor Merkel will also take part in commemorations, following in the footsteps of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who joined then French President Jacques Chirac at a memorial in Caen in 2004.

Hollande’s government appears to be pulling out all the stops in 2014, in what will be a busy year for historic anniversaries.

Earlier this month the French president announced plans for an “unprecedented assembly” of world leaders in France, to mark the centenary of the beginning of World War I

Hollande also revealed that Germany's President, Joachim Gauck, will come to France for a ceremony on August 3rd, 2014, which will be exactly a century after the two countries declared war on each other.

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Plans for ‘D-Day Land’ tourist attraction in northern France spark anger

Plans for a permanent tourist attraction to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings have sparked protest with some accusing the idea of being a 'theme park' that is disrespectful to the men who fought and fell.

Plans for 'D-Day Land' tourist attraction in northern France spark anger
Photo: AFP

Plans have been put forward by the head of the Normandy regional council, Hervé Morin, to create a permanent site in the region to mark the D-Day landings of 1944.

Every year around 5 million people visit Normandy for 'remembrance tourism' but there is no single museum that unites all aspects of the massive Allied military operation that ultimately lead to the Liberation of France and the end of the Second World War.

But despite the plans being at a very early stage – although the aim is to have it completed in time for the 80th anniversary of the landings in 2024 – they have already sparked controversy.

The description of the idea as a spectacle (show) has lead some to describe it as insulting to the thousands of men who lost their lives on the beaches of northern France during the landings.

Every year around 5 million people travel to Normandy to visit cemeteries and D-Day sites. Photo: AFP

Already a petition against the idea – which has been dubbed 'D-Day Land' by its detractors – is circulating.

Set up by the Groupe National de Recherche 1939-1945 (national group of 1939-45 researchers) the petition states: “The Normandy Region has announced a project to create a “D-Day Land” for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. This will seriously harm the ecology of the area but also lacks respect for the veterans and the people killed during the Normandy landings and the battle that followed.

“The Normandy landings is a page in the history of France that must be respected and not give way to a faction of local business that will only serve to destroy the work done for years by associations of memory but also to lovers of this page of history.”
Local officials in Normandy believe the attraction will be of benefit to the region and many of the sites already dedicated to parts of the D-Day landings, such as the Caen Memorial, have given a cautious welcome to the project.
Hervé Morin is talking about private investment to the tune of €100 million for the project, which its has been suggested could be a multimedia affair with film projections and light shows.
Olivier Paz, mayor of Merville-Franceville, told local paper Ouest France that the project must not be “allowed to become Disneyland”.
An artist's impression of the new memorial at Ver-sur-Mer. Photo: AFP
The idea is not the first time that D-Day remembrance has sparked controversy in the area.
A huge permanent memorial to the British soldiers who died that day – jointly inaugurated by French president Emmanuel Macron and former British Prime Minister Theresa May at the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019 – also caused a row.
Locals in the small village of Ver-sur-Mer where memorial is constructed feared that their protected agricultural land would be turfed over and destroyed, an some organised a march to protest at the plans.