November 11, 2018
President Emmanuel Macron warned of the dangers of nationalism in a speech before nearly 70 world leaders in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.
Standing under the Arc de Triomphe in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mr Macron made a solemn but impassioned plea for international cooperation in the interests of maintaining peace.
Emmanuel Macron warns of dangers of nationalism in Armistice Day speech
Addressing an audience including Donald Trump, the US president, and Vladimir Putin of Russia, he said: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying 'Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,' you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: its moral values."
Under a sombre grey sky and drizzling rain, Mr Macron said the weather was a fitting reminder of the atrocious conditions endured in the mud and squalor of the trenches during the Great War.
Emmanuel Macron warns of dangers of nationalism in Armistice Day speech
The French president, who has previously drawn parallels between the world as it is today and the period between the two world wars, defended the European Union and the United Nations, which he said guaranteed peace and enshrined “a spirit of cooperation to defend the common property of a world whose destiny is inextricably linked.”
French commentators noted the presence of many Britons and Americans among the relatives of soldiers and members of the public attending the commemoration ceremony. But they criticised the lack of high-level British representation.
Franck Ferrand, a historical author and broadcaster, said it was regrettable that “no British leader or member of the Royal Family has chosen to attend”. The UK was represented by David Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister and minister for the cabinet office.
Emmanuel Macron warns of dangers of nationalism in Armistice Day speech
Before Mr Macron spoke, eight teenagers read out letters written by First World War soldiers on the day the bloodshed ceased. One, from Charles Neville of the Royal Horse Artillery, was read in English.
It described scenes of joy: “The streets were packed with wildly cheering civilians, chucking flowers at us and carrying on only like a foreigner can. All the streets and the squares were a blaze of colour, mostly of course the Belgian colours, red, yellow and black. Union Jacks, French flags, American flags, in fact every conceivable flag of the allies.”
Emmanuel Macron warns of dangers of nationalism in Armistice Day speech
At 11 am, church bells tolled across France to commemorate the signing of the Armistice at 11 am on November 11, 1918 by the victorious Allies and the vanquished Germans. It was signed in a train carriage in a forest clearing in Compiègne, north of Paris, by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, and by four representatives of Germany.
Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel led the heads of state and government as they walked the last few yards up the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.
Emmanuel Macron warns of dangers of nationalism in Armistice Day speech
Mr Trump arrived separately a few minutes later in his armour-plated limousine, the “Beast”, and Mr Putin also arrived after the others.
Feminist activists from the Femen group staged a brief protest near the US president’s motorcade, but were quickly dragged away by police.
After the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, the leaders went to the Elysée Palace for a formal lunch. In the afternoon, dozens of them, including Mrs Merkel, will take part in an International Peace Forum.
Mr Trump, no fan of international organisations, will not attend. The meeting at the Musee d’Orsay art museum on the banks of the Seine is intended to stress multilateralism and the importance of international alliances in resolving conflicts.
Instead, Mr Trump will visit an American military cemetery in Suresnes, in western Paris, and is to hold a press conference before flying home. However, more rain is forecast. Yesterday the US president cancelled a scheduled visit to another American cemetery 50 miles from Paris because of rain.
About 10,000 soldiers and police guarded the ceremonies.
Anti-Trump protesters plan to demonstrate this afternoon at Place de la République in central Paris. Police will try to prevent any attempt by violent groups to hijack the protest.
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