French President Emmanuel Macron gave Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel an affectionate and stylish send-off on Wednesday with a visit to the heart of the Burgundy wine-growing region, a piano recital in a chateau and a private dinner.
Rather than a grand state dinner at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, where Merkel has known four French presidents, Macron invited her to the medieval town of Beaune, capital of Burgundy wines, for her farewell visit to France as chancellor.
“Welcome to Beaune dear Angela. France loves you,” Macron said on his Twitter feed.
Macron and his wife Brigitte welcomed Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer to the 15th century Hospices de Beaune, a former hospital for the poor which now houses an annual charity auction of Burgundy wines and whose colourful glazed-tile roof is one of France’s top tourist attractions.
Hundreds of wellwishers lined the square at dusk as the two couples visited a wine shop and received flowers and wine.
“This is a wonderful place where you can really experience France,” Merkel said.
The two leaders were not expected to make any political statements in Beaune, where their predecessors Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand called for closer European integration during a Franco-German summit in 1993.
Following a reception at the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot and a piano recital by Alexandre Kantorow, Macron was due to present Merkel with France’s highest award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.
Both champions of European integration, Macron and Merkel worked together closely during the COVID-19 crisis, though they were not regarded as being as close as Merkel and her fellow conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president from 2007 to 2012. Their cooperation during the euro zone crisis earned them the moniker “Merkozy”.
Merkel, 67, who has led her country for 16 years, will stand down when a new German coalition government has been formed following a Sept. 26 national vote in which she did not seek re-election.
At a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting in June, Merkel’s last, Macron thanked the chancellor for all she had done to boost relations between the two countries.
“Allow me to say how much the Franco-German relationship owes to your commitment, your determination, sometimes your patience with us, and your ability to listen,” Macron said.