Macron and Merkel – emotion and unity on Armistice Day centenary

Angela Merkel, the first German leader since World War 2 to visit the site where the World War 1 armistice site, has joined with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in an emotional show of unity in events marking the centenary of Armistice Day.

BBC: Macron and Merkel mark end of World War One

French President c and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have left their own mark of reconciliation at the start of events to mark the centenary of the end of World War One.

They signed a book of remembrance in a railway carriage identical to the one in which the 1918 Armistice was sealed.

Mrs Merkel became the first German leader since World War Two to visit the forest near the town of Compiègne in northern France where the Armistice was signed.

She and Mr Macron unveiled a plaque to Franco-German reconciliation, laid a wreath and signed a book of remembrance in a replica railway carriage.

The original wagon, on which it was modelled, was used by Adolf Hitler to accept France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany in June 1940.

Mr Macron will lead the main event of the centenary – a sombre commemoration on Sunday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to France’s fallen under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Sunday afternoon will see Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel attend a peace conference – the Paris Peace Forum – with leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron initiated the peace conference. As here in New Zealand commemorations of World War 1 have highlighted the horrors of war and as well as remembrance of the huge number who died in the conflict have had significant promotions of alternatives to war – that is, peace.

But where Donald Trump goes, controversy is certain to follow. He did not take part in the peace conference.

And Trump was widely criticised for not attending a remembrance event at an American cemetery.

After an hour of talks with Mr Macron and lunch with their wives Melania and Brigitte, Mr Trump had been due to visit one of two American cemeteries on his schedule.

But he cancelled his trip to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial due to “scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”.

White House officials later explained that low cloud would have prevented his helicopter from landing, and cited security concerns about arranging a motorcade to the site.

Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, attended on the president’s behalf.

Kelly managed to handle the “scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather”.

David Frum (President George W Bush’s speechwriter):

Nicholas Soames, UK Conservative MP and grandson of British wartime leader Winston Churchill:

Trump was grouchy before he got to France, taking a swipe at Macron via Twitter.

The row began when Mr Macron told French radio station Europe 1 radio on Tuesday “we must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States”.

Mr Macron went on to mention threats to Europe, including “re-emerging authoritarian powers” that were well-armed on Europe’s borders, and attempts to launch cyber-attacks, before concluding: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

Mr Trump responded angrily in a Friday night tweet, writing: “President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the US, China and Russia. Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the US subsidizes greatly!”

Mr Macron has already raised spending considerably to meet a Nato target of 2% of the GDP going to defence.

He is also overseeing the formation of a European Intervention Initiative, a 10-nation endeavour backed by Germany and the UK.

(me controversy also from German far right Alternative for Germany AfD party co-leader Alexander Gauland – Germany has no place in WW1 ceremony for ‘winners’- far-right leader

German Chancellor Angela Merkel should not have taken part in a ceremony in France on Sunday marking the centenary of the Armistice as it is an event for the “winners” of World War One, said the leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Germany lost the war and Merkel’s participation in a ceremony for the former allies amounted to an attempt to rewrite history, AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said.

“We can’t put ourselves in a historical situation that clearly favours the winner and walk alongside Mr. Macron through the Arc de Triomphe,” he said, referring to the famous Paris monument.

That totally misses the point of the Armistice Day commemoration. It isn’t about winners, it is about remembering the huge losses suffered by many countries, and trying to avoid any sort of repeat of the stupidity of the war.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has been representing New Zealand in France – Foreign Minister attends Armistice Day and Paris Peace Forum

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters will represent New Zealand at Armistice commemorations in France and attended the inaugural Paris Peace Forum later today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls for ‘peace and inclusion’ on Remembrance Day

Ardern’s Speech to Armistice Day National Ceremony 2018

I don’t know why Ardern didn’t go to France, but that was signalled in July when New Zealand plans were announced – Government releases details of Armistice Day centenary plans

From the German far right to Islam

A curious conversion from Alternative für Deutschland to Islam – from Deutsche Welle German far-right AfD politician resigns after converting to Islam:

Arthur Wagner, a politician in the eastern state of Brandenburg, has become a Muslim. His Alternative for Germany (AfD) party entered the Bundestag last year following a populist, anti-Islam campaign.

The far-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on Tuesday confirmed reports in the German media that one of its politicians, Arthur Wagner, has converted to Islam.

Wagner, a leading AfD member in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, resigned his position on the party’s national executive committee on January 11 for personal reasons, AfD spokesman Daniel Friese said.

Wagner, a German of Russian origin, had been a representative of the AfD since 2015. He was a member of the state committee with responsibility for churches and religious communities.

Before joining the anti-Islam, anti-immigration party, he was a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Wagner refused to answer questions from the German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel, who first reported his conversion to the Islamic faith.

“That’s my private business,” he told the newspaper. But he said there had been no attempt by the party to force him to resign.

Wagner is not the first far-right politician to convert to Islam, according to the German daily Die Welt.

Arnoud van Doorn was asked to leave Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders‘ Freedom Party (PVV). It later emerged he had taken up the Muslim faith and traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the Haj (a pilgrimage to Mecca), the Guardian reported.

The AfD campaigned against Muslim immigration.

Support for the party surged after Germany admitted more than 1.5 million refugees and migrants in 2015 and 2016 at the height of the European migration crisis.

The AfD argued that the country was under threat of “Islamization” and demanded stricter border controls to stem the number of newcomers arriving from war-torn and poverty-stricken countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Ironic then that one of their own politicians has been Islamified.

Related links from DW:

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD):

Founded in April 2013, the AfD narrowly missed the 5% electoral threshold to sit in the Bundestag during the 2013 federal election. In 2014 the party won seven seats in the European election as a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists. After securing representation in 14 of the 16 German stateparliaments by October 2017, the AfD became the third largest party in Germany after the 2017 federal election, claiming 94 seats in the Bundestag, a major breakthrough for the party as it was the first time the AfD had won any seats in the Bundestag.

The party has been described as a German nationalist,[2][3][4] right-wing populist, and Eurosceptic party. Since about 2015, the AfD has been increasingly open to working with far-right extremist groups such as Pegida.

Parts of the AfD also have racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and/or xenophobic tendencies linked to far-right movements such as Neo-Nazismand identitarianism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_for_Germany

It seems odd to me that even the English version of Deutsche Welle calls the AfD ‘Alternative for Germany’.

It would be a bit like the Herald calling parties here Die ArbeiterParty or Neuseeland Erst.