Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - World leaders to descend on France for WWI tribute



World leaders to descend on France for WWI tribute

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Parisians celebrate the end of the First World War and the Armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany on November 11, 1918. AFP

World leaders to descend on France for WWI tribute

FRANCE kicks off a week of World War I commemorations from Sunday, with some 80 leaders from around the globe preparing to fly in for a ceremony marking a century since the guns fell silent.

French President Emmanuel Macron is gearing up for a busy week of diplomacy that will see him play host to leaders including US President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

He will also be criss-crossing northern France, visiting the battlefields where hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives in the trenches.

Macron will notably use the international spotlight to issue a rallying cry against populism – in the presence of “America First” Trump and other nationalist leaders.

The commemorations will culminate in a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11 attended by dozens of leaders including Trump, Putin and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, 100 years to the day since the armistice.

The ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Champs-Elysees avenue will be held under tight security following a string of deadly jihadist attacks in France over the past three years.

Remembrance events begin on Sunday with a concert celebrating friendship between former wartime enemies France and Germany in the border city of Strasbourg, attended by Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Macron will then spend the week visiting the Western Front battlefields, from Verdun to the Somme.

On Tuesday, in honour of the “black army” of former colonial troops who fought alongside the French, he and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will visit Reims, a city defended by the African soldiers.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May will join Macron on the Somme on Friday, while on Saturday he heads to the village of Rethondes, where the armistice was signed, with Merkel.

War commemorations aside, Macron is set to use his tour of northern France to visit areas hit hard by industrial decline, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen performed strongly in last year’s presidential election.

“After paying homage to those who died for their country it will be back to dealing with social and economic problems,” said Bruno Cautres of political think-tank Cevipof.

‘President of the rich’

Macron – who has struggled to shake off an image as a “president of the rich” – will zip through 17 towns, holding Wednesday’s weekly cabinet meeting in the Ardennes, an area which was battered by the war and today suffers high unemployment.

The 40-year-old president, whose approval rating is languishing at a dismal 21 per cent according to a YouGov poll released on Thursday, has dismissed rumours that he is suffering from burn-out.

He sparked rampant speculation by taking a few days off ahead of the tour, which aides have insisted were to gather his energy before an intense week of diplomacy.

This week is an opportunity for the centrist to “reflect a strong presidential image” both at home and abroad, Cautres said.

Macron is set to use his speeches to hammer home warnings of the dangers of nationalism at a time when populists are on the march around Europe and beyond.

In a Thursday interview, he said Europe risked a return to the 1930s because of the spread of a nationalist “leprosy” across the continent.

“I am struck by similarities between the times we live in and those of between the two world wars,” he told the Ouest-France newspaper.

“In a Europe divided by fears, the return of nationalism, the consequences of economic crisis, one sees almost systematically everything that marked Europe between the end of World War I and the 1929 [economic] crisis.”

Macron is attempting to position himself as a champion of centrist politics and multilateralism in the run-up to European parliamentary elections in May, saying he expects the duel to be one between “progressives” and “nationalists”.

After next Sunday’s ceremony, world leaders are set to attend a three-day peace forum opened by Merkel, an event which France wants to turn into an annual multilateral peace conference.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia to waive quarantine requirements Nov 15, no PCR test required

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to lift all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and visitors – both Cambodians and foreign nationals – effective from November 15 onward. In a special message addressed to officials and relevant authorities on November 14, Hun Sen said this policy will enable

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration