Schröder’s place remains free at Chirac’s funeral service
The former president of France Jacques Chirac died at the age of 86. So far about 5000 people have signed a book of condolence at the Elysée Palace.
Understanding or diplomatic faux pas? At the funeral service for former French President Jacques Chirac, the place reserved for former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) was left empty, reports the news agency AFP.
Schröder’s office had previously stated that the former Chancellor’s request to attend the celebrations had been rejected by the Protocol Department of the Élysée Palace.
According to Élysée, however, this was a “misunderstanding”: Schröder apparently expected an official invitation to the ceremony, according to the presidential office. But this was not the case for any of the dozens of international guests. Instead, only the protocol path had been followed.
From the Élysée it was further said that Schröder had a reserved place in the church Saint-Sulpice as well as at a following lunch with President Emmanuel Macron and other acting and former heads of state and government. For Germany, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended the mourning ceremony.
French media speak of “Misston” and “Schnitzer”
Schröder’s office, however, explained that the Élysée Palace had referred to the limited space in the church opposite the German embassy in Paris. This was the reason why the number of participants had to be severely restricted. After the Élysée statement became known, Schröder’s office stated that the matter had apparently been a “communication problem” of the various protocol departments.
The French television station LCI spoke of a “mismatch” at the funerals for Chirac. The newspaper “Le Figaro” called the event a “blunder” and referred to the tense relationship between Paris and Berlin. “Since Chirac and Schröder, relations between Paris and Berlin are no longer characterized by the same proximity and agreement that allows progress in Europe,” the paper commented.
In 2003, Chirac supported Schröder in his fight against the Iraq attack plans of the then US President George W. Bush. For this protest against the American war in Iraq, he was remembered internationally. “Europe has lost a great one,” Schröder wrote in an obituary for WELT. Chirac had lived the German-French friendship.
“Europe has lost a great one”
Political celebrities from France and all over the world paid their last respects to the Frenchman on Monday at Saint-Sulpice Cathedral in Paris. With the words “Adieu et merci, Monsieur Chirac” Archbishop Michel Aupetit bid farewell to Chirac, who died at the age of 86, during his sermon. For the first time since the fire catastrophe in April, the Notre-Dame bell was rung again. Throughout Monday, France was in state mourning.
The great memorial service was also attended by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bill Clinton, Kremlin Head Vladimir Putin, Monaco Prince Albert II, Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai, Lebanon’s Head of Government Saad Hariri, Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri.
The former French presidents François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing also paid their last respects to Chirac. France’s President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte were also in the Church, as were numerous personalities from French politics and society.
What was striking was the absence of Chirac’s widow Bernadette. The media reported that she did not attend the service for health reasons. Also not in Paris was EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – he had been expected according to Élysée. The European Commission did not give a reason for the absence when asked and did not want to confirm possible health reasons.
A true love for the people
In his homily, Archbishop Aupetit praised Chirac as a “warm-hearted man” who had a true love for people. He felt just as at home in the rooms of the Élysée as he did at agricultural fairs. Chirac’s coffin was reportedly carried into and out of the church by Chirac’s former bodyguards. Saint-Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris after Notre-Dame, Chirac lived not far from the church.