French President Emmanuel Macron denounced nationalism during an Armistice Day centennial observance in Paris on Sunday.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: Nationalism is treason,” Macron said, according to a Euronews translator.
Macron spoke in front of world leaders including President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“If we think our interests may only come first and we don’t care for others, it is a treason of our values, a betrayal of all moral values,” he said. “We must remember this.”
Macron said that the moral values of France helped them fight for the future of their country.
He praised the world leaders that formed the first League of Nations, after World War I.
“They imagined the first international corporation, the dismantling of empires, and redefined borders, and dreamed at the time of a union, a political union of Europe,” Macron said.
He lamented that the spirit of revenge and humiliation after World War I sparked renewed nationalism that led to World War II.
Macron defended organizations like the European Union and the United Nations, hailing their ideals despite their “setbacks” over the years. He called for a new era of science-built progress.
“Together we can rise to the challenges of poverty, global warming, disease, inequality, and ignorance,” he said. “And we can win this together, because victory is possible together, together we can break away from the countertruths and injustices, we can counter the extremes which would drive us to war.”
In an interview with CNN, Macron continued his condemnation of nationalism but was hesitant to claim the “globalist” label.
“I would say I’m a patriot,” he said, but added: “I’m not a believer in a sort of globalism without any differentiation. I think it doesn’t — it’s very inconsistent, and it’s extremely — it makes our people very nervous. But I’m not a nationalist, which is very different for me from being a patriot.”
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has warned of the dangers of rising nationalism as he addressed Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and other world leaders at a ceremony in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war armistice.
As more than 60 heads of state and dignitaries gathered in the rain near Paris’s tomb of the unknown soldier to mark a century since guns fell silent on the western front, Macron delivered a pointedly political speech, warning that “old demons” were resurfacing and threatened the fragile peace.
Later Macron commented that it was great to have world leaders at the Arc de Triomphe for the first world war memorial but asked how the photos would be seen in the future: “A symbol of lasting peace? Or the last moment of unity before the world falls into disorder? That depends on us.”
The centrist pro-European Macron used his commemoration speech to say that nations must find new ways to build peace together in the face of dangerous, rising populism and “selfish” nationalism.
Armistice Day: moving events mark 100 years since end of first world war – as it happened
Describing himself as a patriot, Macron said: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: its moral values.
“Old demons are resurfacing. History sometimes threatens to take its tragic course again and compromise our hope of peace. Let us vow to prioritise peace over everything.”
He said the traces of the first world war had never been erased from Europenor the Middle East and called on countries to stand together in “goodwill” against climate change, poverty and inequality. “Let us build our hopes rather than playing our fears against each other.”
Trump, who said recently he was proud to be a nationalist, looked on alongside Putin, the Russian president, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and scores of other leaders, but not the British prime minister, Theresa May, who was at the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
Armistice Day is marked around the world – in pictures
After the commemorations at the Arc de Triomphe, key world leaders had lunch at the Élysée Palace – a moment of frantic diplomacy for Macron. Trump was seated between Macron and the Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, and Merkel was seated next to Putin. The Spanish king Felipe was also at the table, and French observers marvelled that May was absent from the gathering. She was represented instead by David Lidington, who was not at the top table.
The leaders had met at the Arc de Triomphe for the armistice ceremony just after 11am. Most heads of state walked slowly together for the last few metres, standing shoulder to shoulder under black umbrellas. This slow walk under pouring rain was seen as a gesture for peace. Both Trump and Putin were absent as both arrived separately at the Arc de Triomphe in their own security conveys.
As Trump’s motorcade arrived, a topless activist from the Femen group ran out with “Fake” and “Peace” written on her chest, shouting “fake peace maker!” She was removed by police.
Putin was the last to arrive. He shook hands with several leaders but his warmest greeting was for Trump, giving him a smile and thumbs up and patting the US president’s arm.
Trump had been expected to meet Putin for talks during the visit, but will instead sit down with him formally later this month, most likely at a world leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires.
Trump had been criticised at home for cancelling a visit to an American cemetery outside Paris on Saturday because of bad weather. Rain grounded the helicopter Trump had planned to take, so he cancelled the trip, officials said. He instead visited a different American cemetery on Sunday afternoon.
Macron, Merkel and the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres opened a new peace forum in Paris, designed to boost multilateralism and the cooperation between nations at a moment of tension. Merkel warned that “lack of communication and unwillingness to compromise” could have terrible consequences for world peace.
Trump, who while pushing an “America First” agenda has called into question multilateralist organisations, was not going to attend the conference. Nor was Putin expected.
Some anti-Trump protestors gathered at a square in central Paris, where the Trump baby balloon seen in London was on display.