German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took French President Emmanuel Macron for an impromptu walk in the center of Potsdam before a long working dinner.
It is the first time that Scholz has met a foreign leader in the city where he resides. Potsdam is close to Berlin.
Scholz showed Macron the center of Potsdam during a walk of more than half an hour. They met in the Alter Markt (Old Market) square, sat outside the café of the Barberini Museum, and also walked through the Freundschaftsinsel (Friendship Island), a nearby park.
The meeting was also significant because the German chancellor and the French president did not get off to the best possible start after the new government took office in Berlin in December 2021. Relations have not been entirely easy.
Dinner in Potsdam lasted almost three hours, much longer than expected.
However, it was not entirely in private: delegations from both countries were also present, but Scholz and Macron sat at a separate table.
It was thought likely that both were talking about the Russian war against Ukraine, but also about European issues such as the European Commission’s proposals for a reform of the debt rules, a particularly contentious topic between Germany and France.
Macron and Scholz had just met last week at the European summit in Moldova, where they launched an attempt at joint mediation in the conflict in northern Kosovo.
More than 50 people stopped at the nearby Neuer Markt (New Market) square and watched Scholz and Macron as they entered the Kochzimmer restaurant.
Last year there had been a lot of friction in Franco-German relations. A joint cabinet meeting even had to be postponed in the autumn due to too many differences.
At the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty on Franco-German Friendship in Paris in January, both sides tried to act together. The postponed Joint Ministerial Council was held.
Scholz and Macron then concluded the festivities with a dinner at the French president’s favorite restaurant, the La Rotonde brasserie in the Montparnasse district of Paris.
The fact that the German chancellor has invited the French president to Potsdam – practically to his home – can be understood as a further exercise to ease the still tense relations between the two countries.
The Kochzimmer offers top-class cuisine in a historic atmosphere and has been located in one of Potsdam’s oldest and most traditional inns since 1783. Restaurant chef Jörg Frankenhäuser, who also won a coveted Michelin star this year, offers “New Prussian Cuisine”.
Macron plans to return to Germany in early July.
During a three-day state visit July 2-4 at the invitation of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Macron will visit Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, as well as the eastern city of Dresden.
According to current plans, Macron will only have breakfast with Scholz. A grand state banquet is planned at Steinmeier’s home at Bellevue Palace in Berlin.
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,” read a statement from the Office of the German President and the Elysee Palace in early May.