The German national anthem was sung on the Champs Elysees today – just one symbol of an Armistice Day commemoration that has made history in its own right.
Exactly 91 years after Germany’s defeat in the First World War, it is now a firm friend of former foe France. Hence their leaders’ joint rekindling of the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. Angela Merkel’s presence in Paris for France’s principal Armistice Day event is a first for a German Chancellor. “The friendship between Germany and France is a treasure,” Sarkozy said in his speech. “We owe it to our ancestors who suffered so much to do everything to preserve this treasure and let it flourish. We also owe it to the people of Europe. We owe it to all the people of the world. When Germany and France propose something together, act together, Germany and France accomplish great things.” In Berlin this week, marking 20 years since the fall of the Wall, Sarkozy added words of German to his speech. Today Chancellor Merkel returned the compliment. While she stuck to her mother tongue for her address at the Arc de Triomphe, she ventured into French to wish long life to France, Germany and the Franco-German friendship. Although both leaders remembered the past, much of their talk was about the future, with pledges for ever closer cooperation at the heart of Europe. Today’s Franco-German relationship, in Merkel’s words, “nourishes hope and confidence that elsewhere in the world, too, deep trenches can be bridged and overcome.”