‘France loves you’ – Macron hosts Merkel for farewell visit

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday hosted outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel for a valedictory visit as she bows out after 16 years in power, with the German leader cheered by crowds and awarded France's highest honour.

Macron and Merkel embrace, watched by Merkel's husband Joachim Sauer
Macron and Merkel embrace, watched by Merkel's husband Joachim Sauer Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

In a gesture of thanks to Merkel for her contribution to Franco-German relations that has seen her deal with four presidents of France, Macron treated her to a visit to the French town of Beaune in the wine-growing Bourgogne region.

Accompanied by her low-profile husband Joachim Sauer, Merkel was given an eager welcome as she and Macron dived into the crowds and fist-bumped well-wishers shouting “Angela, Bravo!”.

“Frankreich liebt Dich” (France loves you), Macron tweeted in German as he welcomed her to the town ahead of a piano recital and gourmet dinner.

She also received from Macron the Grand Cross, the highest distinction of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s chief honour.

Her predecessors including Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroeder have also received the honour.

Macron was the fourth French president Merkel has dealt with during her mandate, after Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.

The pair are from contrasting generations, have different styles and sometimes even clashed behind the scenes on issues such as Berlin’s preference for budget austerity and Macron’s passion for a European defence strategy not dependent on the US.

But they are widely seen to have been generally effective partners, most notably jointly spearheading an unprecedented European Union rescue package to help economies weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Merkel, who said she would not serve another term, is expected to leave office in the coming weeks, once a new coalition is agreed following elections won by the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) over her own conservative Christian Democrats (CDU).

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.