Macron heads to Germany in first French presidential state visit in 24 years

Macron visit Germany
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz poses with French President Emmanuel Macron, during the "Compact with Africa" investment summit, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, November 20, 2023. REUTERS

French President Emanuel Macron lands in Germany on Sunday for a three-day state visit followed by a bilateral cabinet meeting as the European Union’s two biggest powers seek to show unity ahead of next month’s EU parliamentary elections.

Macron’s trip to the capital Berlin, Dresden in the east and Muenster in the west is the first French presidential state visit to Germany in 24 years.

The visit will be watched as a checkup on the health of the German-French relationship that drives EU policymaking, at a time of major challenges for Europe: from the Ukraine war to the possible election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November.

Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have very different leadership styles and have publicly clashed on issues from defence to nuclear energy since the latter took power in late 2021. However, they have reached compromises on various fronts of late, from fiscal reform to changes to power market subsidies, allowing the EU to strike deals, and put on a more united front.

“There are tensions in the German-French relationship but in part precisely because they have dealt with some difficult topics,” said Yann Wernert at the Jacques Delors Institute in Berlin, noting the two countries had also converged on the need to expand the EU eastwards.

Macron, accompanied on his trip by his wife Brigitte, will start his visit on Sunday meeting in Berlin with the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before walking through the landmark Brandenburg Gate with the city’s mayor, Kai Wegner.

On Monday, he will head to Dresden, where he will make a speech in front of the Frauenkirche which was destroyed by Western allies during the Second World War, before heading on Tuesday to Muenster.

But perhaps the most significant part of his trip will be the cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Meseberg, just outside Berlin, where the two governments will then get down to business seeking to find common ground on the two main issues they have struggled to see eye-to-eye on, namely defence and competitiveness.

The two countries will also try to find common ground on the EU agenda for the next five years, in view of the expected strong showing for the far-right in the parliamentary elections on June 6-9, making EU decision-making more difficult.

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