German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took French President Emmanuel Macron for an impromptu stroll through downtown Potsdam, where he currently resides, near the German capital Berlin, ahead of a long working dinner on Wednesday.
They met at the old market (Old Market) square, sat down outside the café of the Museum Barberini and also walked across the friendship island (Friendship Island), a nearby park.
The pair also posted images from their walkabout online.
More than 50 people stood at the nearby New market (New Market) square and watched Scholz and Macron as they went into the upscale Kochzimmer restaurant, while others hung out of windows to catch a glimpse of the leaders.
The Kochzimmer recently won a coveted Michelin star for its upscale menu described by chef Jörg Frankenhäuser as “new Prussian cuisine.”
A long dinner
The dinner in Potsdam lasted almost three hours, it was significantly longer than planned. However, it was not entirely in private: the delegations of both countries were also present, but Scholz and Macron sat at a separate table.
It was considered likely that both spoke about the Russian war against Ukraine, but also about European issues such as the European Commission’s proposals for a reform of debt rules which is a particularly controversial topic between Germany and France.
After the dinner, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) swore by the close friendship between the two neighboring countries. “Our countries are linked by an inseparable friendship,” Scholz wrote on Twitter in German and French. “Together we are tackling the challenges of these days and of our time.”
The meeting was also significant because the German chancellor and the French president did not initially get off to a good start after the new government took office in Berlin in December 2021. Relations were not entirely easy.
Tensions between Berlin and Paris
The fact that the German chancellor invited the French president to Potsdam (practically to his home) can be understood as a further exercise in loosening the still tense relationship between the two countries.
Last year, there had been a lot of friction in Franco-German relations. A joint cabinet meeting even had to be postponed in the autumn because of too many differences.
At the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty on Franco-German friendship in Paris in January, both sides tried to get their act together. The postponed joint Council of Ministers took place.
Scholz and Macron ended the celebrations then with a dinner at the French president’s favorite restaurant, La Rotonde brasserie in the Montparnasse district of Paris.
Macron wants to return in July
Macron plans to be in Germany again at the beginning of July. During a three-day state visit from July 2-4 at the invitation of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Macron is scheduled to visit Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, as well as the eastern city of Dresden.
According to current plans, Macron will only have breakfast with Scholz. A large state banquet is planned at Steinmeier’s home in Berlin’s Bellevue Palace.
It will be the first state visit of a French president to Germany in 23 years.
“This special event marks the beginning of a new chapter in the decades of friendship between the two countries,” said a statement from the Office of the German President and the Élysée Palace at the beginning of May.
dh/msh (dpa, AFP)
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