His pitch for European unity came ahead of a crucial round of soft diplomacy. More than 60 world leaders, including President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, are expected to attend a commemoration in Paris on Sunday marking 100 years since the end of World War I.
Almost 117,000 Americans were killed during World War I, which ended with an agreement between U.S. allies and Germany signed at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — Armistice Day.
Macron began a six-day tour of World War I battlegrounds Sunday night, accompanied by his wife, Brigitte, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
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The armistice brought peace to France, but Germany saw street fighting between far-left and far-right factions, the end of the monarchy, hyperinflation and poverty — conditions that allowed the Nazis to flourish.
Macron, who is keen to position himself as a centrist European figurehead similar to Germany’s Angela Merkel, drew dark parallels between Europe’s current crisis and those that tore it apart at the start of the last century.
“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 crisis,” he said.
Europe must “know how to fight back,” he added.
In addition to Brexit, Europe has been rocked by the rise of nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland and populist parties in Italy.
“Europe faces a risk — that of being broken up by the nationalist leprosy and of being pushed around by foreign powers,” Macron said.
That means “having security depend on U.S. choices, having China play an ever-greater role when it comes to essential infrastructures, and Russia sometimes tempted to try its hand at manipulation, and have financial interests and markets sometimes play greater roles than those of states.”