Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) met French President Emmanuel Macron in a friendly atmosphere in his home town of Potsdam for dinner. It was the first time in his reign that he received a head of state or government in the Brandenburg state capital.
The two didn't just go out to eat together. Scholz showed Macron the center of Potsdam on a walk of more than half an hour. They met at the Alter Markt, sat outside in the café of the Barberini Museum and also walked across the Friendship Island, a nearby park.
The meeting was also important because the Chancellor and the President did not initially get off to a good start after the change of government in Berlin in December 2021. Relations were not easy.
Don't eat in private
However, their meal in Potsdam was not completely private: the delegations from both countries were also there, but Scholz and Macron sat at a separate table. It was considered likely that both were talking about Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, but also about European issues such as the EU Commission's proposals for reforming the debt rules - a particularly controversial topic between Germany and France. Macron and Scholz only saw each other last week at the European summit in Moldova, where they started a joint attempt to mediate in the conflict in northern Kosovo.
More than 50 people stood at the Neuer Markt and watched Scholz and Macron as they went to the "Kochzimmer" restaurant. Evelyn Haupt came from Hanover especially to see Macron – she is a fan of the President and took two selfies: one with Macron and one with Macron and Scholz.
In the past year, there had been a lot of crunching in Franco-German relations. A joint cabinet meeting even had to be postponed in the fall due to major differences. At the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty on Franco-German friendship in Paris in January, both sides tried to get the curve. The joint Council of Ministers was rescheduled.
Scholz and Macron ended the celebrations with a dinner at the French President's favorite restaurant, the brasserie "La Rotonde" in the Montparnasse district. Now Macron is probably the most famous regular guest, which also brings trouble to "La Rotonde". In early April, the restaurant was the target of an arson attack for the second time. Angry demonstrators set fire to a rally against Macron's pension reform, an awning caught fire, but the fire brigade quickly put out the flames.
relaxation exercise of a tense relationship
The fact that the chancellor invited the French president to Potsdam - practically to his home - can be understood as a further relaxation exercise in the still tense relationship between the two countries. The "Kochzimmer" offers upscale cuisine in a historic atmosphere and is located in the "Gaststätte zur Ratswaage", since 1783 one of the most traditional and oldest inns in Potsdam. Restaurant manager Jörg Frankenhäuser, who won the coveted Michelin star from the gourmet guide "Guide Michelin" again this year, offers "New Prussian cuisine".
From July 2nd to 4th, the French head of state will come to Germany for a state visit at the invitation of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In addition to Berlin, stations in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart and in Dresden are planned. According to the current planning status, Macron will only have breakfast with Scholz. A large state banquet is planned at Steinmeier's in Bellevue Palace. It is the first state visit by a French President to Germany in 23 years. "This special event marks the beginning of a new chapter in the decades-long friendship between the two countries," said a statement from the Office of the Federal President and the Élysée Palace at the beginning of May. Perhaps the meeting in Potsdam also helped.