Macron calls for strong Franco-German alliance at Schäuble memorial

‘Germany has lost a statesman, Europe a supporting pillar and France a friend,’ says French president in glowing tribute

French president Emmanuel Macron has urged Berlin — in an urgent Bundestag speech — not to let the Franco-German alliance for Europe die with Wolfgang Schäuble.

At a solemn state memorial in the Reichstag parliament building, the French president described the late German politician, who died last month aged 81, as “one of the master builders” of European integration.

“Germany has lost a statesman, Europe a supporting pillar and France a friend,” said Mr Macron in a speech delivered largely in German.

Born in 1942 in the southwest Baden region near the French border, the French leader recalled how the young Wolfgang Schäuble experienced first-hand the uncertainty of war and the postwar years.


As a lover of the classics and history — and a lifelong Francophile — Schäuble knew that Europe’s “most fragile ... and most promising border was ours”, the Franco-German border a few kilometres from his home.

Mr Macron, specifically invited by the late politician to address his memorial service, joked: “Letting a French man talk in the Bundestag says a lot about his trust in our two countries — and says a lot about our history and our future.”

Monday’s solemn ceremony came on the 61st anniversary of the Élysée Treaty signing in 1963. Signed by President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Mr Macron said the treaty created an “obligation to work towards reconciliation” between the two former “hereditary enemies”.

Schäuble helped grow and develop the Élysée inheritance as a German MP since 1972 until his death and as a senior cabinet minister. As Bundestag president, his final public role, Dr Schäuble helped create the Franco-German parliamentary assembly which first met in 2019.

With the deaths of Schäuble, and Jacques Delors, Mr Macron said the obligation to carry on Franco-German reconciliation, and to strengthen the “inseparable connection” between the two countries, has passed to today’s leaders.

“Let us accept this legacy and be up to the task,” said Mr Macron.

His remarks were a nod to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, seated nearby, and an acknowledgement of recent drift in the relationship amid political differences, the race to support Ukraine and growing domestic distractions for both.

The French president’s speech touched a nerve in the Bundestag and earned a rare standing ovation when he concluded with the words: “Long live Europe! Long live Germany! Long live Franco-German friendship!”

Attending a special sitting of the Bundestag, packed except for many empty seats of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), were long-term political friends and allies of Schäuble including ECB president Christian Lagarde and former chancellor Angela Merkel.

The former German leader described her former interior and finance minister as an “anchor of stability, calm and intellectual perspicacity”. Though she had her conflicts with him — in particular ousting him as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2000 — she said she valued his ability to “look forward”.

The ceremony came a day after extremist revelations sparked a weekend of anti-AfD, pro-democracy demonstrations around Germany. Noting those gatherings, CDU leader Friedrich Merz said Schäuble never viewed anyone as a “political enemy but a rival, and his aspiration was to understand them”.

Mr Merz said that as Germany’s longest-serving parliament member, seven years older than the current German state, Schäuble “knew our democracy is not a given, it is worth defending and it has to be defended every day”.

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Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin