Macron bids farewell to Merkel, saying 'France loves you'

Departing chancellor also receives Grand Cross, France's highest honour

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday hosted outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a valedictory visit as she bows out after 16 years in power.

The German leader was also awarded France's highest honour.

In a gesture of thanks to Ms Merkel for her contribution to Franco-German relations, Mr Macron treated her to a visit to the French town of Beaune in the wine-producing Bourgogne region.

Accompanied by her husband Joachim Sauer, Ms Merkel was given an eager welcome as she and Mr Macron dived into the crowds and fist-bumped well-wishers shouting “Angela, Bravo!”

“Frankreich liebt Dich” (France loves you), Mr Macron tweeted as he welcomed her to the town before a piano recital and gourmet dinner.

Ms Merkel also received the Grand Cross, the highest distinction of the Legion d'Honneur, France's chief honour.

Her predecessors, Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt, Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schroeder have also received the honour.

"Since you have become chancellor, France has learned to know you and to love you," said Mr Macron.

"You have worked to keep Europe together throughout all these shocks. I hope that the lesson you have left us with, to stand firm against strong headwinds and to make sure that everybody remains united and that things do not fall apart, that this will stay with us."

Mr Macron was the fourth French president Ms Merkel has dealt with during her mandate, after Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

The pair are from contrasting generations, have different styles and sometimes even clashed behind the scenes on issues such as Berlin's preference for budget austerity and Mr Macron's passion for a European defence strategy not dependent on the US.

But they are widely seen to have been generally effective partners, most notably jointly spearheading an unprecedented EU rescue package to help economies weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Merkel, who said she would not serve another term, is expected to leave office in the coming weeks, once a new coalition is agreed upon following elections won by the left-wing Social Democrats over her own conservative Christian Democrats.

Updated: November 04, 2021, 12:16 PM