French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angel Merkel met in Freiberg im Breisgau today together with their Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministers and the French Prime Minister. They had a look at the Christmas Market and Cathedral square as well. When the summit was held in the same place nine years ago the then German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, fell into one of the channels that run through the city, carrying water through it, and left with wet socks.
In the press conference they talked about the Euro reaffirming their opposition to the idea of Eurobonds and Sarko said that neither country had been consulted before the idea was published by a number of other European countries. The meeting is the usual French German pre-meet before a EU Summit. Afterwards they had lunch in the ceremonial hall of the historic Kaufhaus. More than 1.000 police officers were on duty in he city but, unlike nine years ago, this time the Christmas market was not closed.
It was just one Franco-German item on the agenda today. As well as the meeting of the leaders in Freiburg, the Transport Ministers, Peter Ramsauer for Germany and Thierry Mariani for France, met just across the Rhine from Strasbourg in Kehl to officially open the new twin track rail bridge over the Rhine. The bridge has cost 87 million Euros and will allow trains to cross at 160km an hour and not 70 at the moment, although the works on the German side are a little delayed and the trains will only cross at 120 km an hour until the works are finished. The bridge and the new twin tracks between Strasbourg and Appenweier will cut the travel time on the Paris-Bratislava “Magistrale” by 5 minutes.
The last part of this Franco-German love-in took place in Strasbourg where the respective Defence Ministers, Alain Juppe and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, presided in the afternoon over the ceremony at the Pavilion de l’Orangerie marking the garrisoning of the German 291st ägerbataillon of J Bundeswehr (rifle battalion) on French territory at Illkirch-Graffenstaden, south of Strasbourg. This is the first unit of the German army stationed on French soil since 1945, and they now share barracks in the Quartier Leclerc with the 2nd French Armored Brigade.
Christmas is all around
From the film Love Actually here is Bill Nighy, being wonderfully Bill Nighy, recording a version of the Troggs hit Love is all around:
It was our works Christmas do last night and it was a very quiet restrained affair, no shocking or inappropriate behaviour to gossip about over the copier this morning. I’m afraid even Bil Nighy being wonderfully himself together with the Christmas do hasn’t done the job of making me feel more Christmassy. Here’s the full video of the song from the film and I agree with Bill at the end: