Sunday, October 1, 2023

Charles III in France, a royal visit under the sign of warming up: “The king cannot say it, but I am convinced that he is pro-European”

The royal visit, initially scheduled for early spring, had to be postponed. At issue: the mobilization and demonstrations against the pension reform. France was to be Charles III’s first state visit. In the end it was Germany that had this honor.

For Sylvie Bermann, French ambassador to the United Kingdom between 2014 and 2017, administrator of the Jacques Delors Institute and author of Madame l’ambassador (Éditions Tallandier, 2022), the choice of the royal couple’s first destinations is not trivial. “King Charles III cannot say it, but I am convinced that he is deeply pro-European. He, too, cannot give his opinion on Brexit, but I think he wants a rapprochement with the European Union and therefore with its two main countries, France and Germany. He must also be pleased that relations between France and the United Kingdom are improving. “

Charles III, a life to look forward to… (Podcast)

Years marked by many issues of discord

Recent years have been marked by strong tensions between both countries. There were many areas of contention, including Brexit and its consequences. The issue of fishing rights in the English Channel has been, in particular, the subject of Franco-British tensions. The immigration issue has also been a recurring topic of conflict. France also did not appreciate – and that is an understatement – ​​the submarine intervention of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in 2021, to torpedo an important contract for the sale of French submersibles to Australia. For French diplomacy and its then minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, this was a “stab in the back”, while the relationship between President Emmanuel Macron and “BoJo”, a fan of criticizing France, was no longer very friendly. As for the next tenant of 10 Downing Street, the short-lived Liz Truss, she refused to say, at first, whether the president of the French Republic was a friend or enemy of the United Kingdom.

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The end of hostilities and the return of cordial understanding between the two countries materialized with the accession, in October 2022, of Rishi Sunak to the position of Prime Minister. He was also greeted with great fanfare by “his friend” Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee, two weeks before the royal couple’s initially planned visit in the spring. Two seasons later, already a year after the legislative elections on the other side of the Channel, the conservatives find themselves in difficulties, and this time it is the leader of the Labor Party, Keir Starmer, who was received this Tuesday at the Elysée, the eve of the elections. Arrival of the British monarch and Queen Camilla.

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Charles III in France: a detail prohibited by the king on his official visit

A classic program with a green touch

In Paris, this Wednesday, the royal couple’s program is very classic, with some obligatory passages. Between a commemorative ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe and a state banquet in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles, Emmanuel Macron and Charles III will meet face to face. They are to discuss current issues, including the war in Ukraine and the situation in the Sahel. On Thursday, after giving a speech before deputies and senators at the Luxembourg Palace, King Charles III will travel with his wife to the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, in the company of the presidential couple, where they will discuss with the restoration team of the Building damaged by fire in 2019.

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On Friday they will travel to Bordeaux. They will meet the firefighters who fought the violent fires of the summer of 2022 and visit an organic vineyard. “Carlos III has a true interest in important issues and, in particular, in ecology, climate, environmental protection, agriculture, biodiversity… Global warming quickly worried him. He was a precursor and that’s why they also made fun of him,” says Sylvie Bermann.

Of course, this is not Charles III’s first visit to France. He has already turned 34, as Prince of Wales. He also speaks perfect French, as does his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. His first trip to France dates back to 1968. Then, at the age of 19, the heir to the English throne visited prehistoric sites in the Dordogne, the second most populated French department by the British, after Paris.

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