French President Emmanuel Macron will present the insignia of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour to Angela Merkel on Wednesday during her last visit as German Chancellor to France.
This “farewell visit” is presented as a “personal” moment between the two leaders and their spouses, Brigitte Macron and Joachim Sauer, before Merkel leaves politics after the formation of a new German government expected in December.
It “brings to a close years of fruitful work between the President and the Chancellor in order to strengthen bilateral Franco-German cooperation, marked in particular by the signing of the Treaty of Aachen in 2019, and to contribute to the European project,” the Elysée stressed.
It is also a question of honouring the exceptional longevity of the chancellor who has led Germany for 16 years and has worked with four French presidents: Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Hollande, and Macron.
The Grand Cross is the highest distinction of the Legion of Honour, which “embodies the solidity of the Franco-German friendship, maintained by Angela Merkel,” the presidency said.
In recent months, the French president has paid tribute to her on several occasions, praising the “commitment”, “patience” and “ability to listen” of the chancellor with whom he has worked closely on the European scene. Because, according to him, “Europe cannot move forward if Germany and France are not in agreement”.
Macron chose Beaune, a wine-growing area in Burgundy, for the visit, which will begin in the late afternoon, because it is “a town whose historical monuments and wine culture illustrate the richness of French heritage,” the Elysée explained.
They will visit the famous Hospices de Beaune, a 15th-century architectural gem in the flamboyant Gothic style. This former hospital, world-famous for its wine estate, had already welcomed François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl in June 1993 for the 63rd Franco-German summit.
But, while the latter stayed for dinner, the Macron and Merkel couples will go not far from there, to the Château du Clos de Vougeot, an emblematic monument of winegrowing Burgundy located in the middle of the greatest vintages.
Founded by Cistercian monks in the 11th century, the château was intended from the outset for wine-making, in a terroir that is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The president and the chancellor will be inducted into the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, which, “since its creation in 1934, has celebrated Burgundy, its traditional cuisine and its wines, as well as Burgundian customs and traditions,” according to the Elysée.