A summit in Versailles, quite a symbol in the middle of the war

HISTORY – This Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11, Emmanuel Macron will bring European heads of state and government together for a summit in Versailles. In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the aim will be to talk about ways to make Europe “stronger and more sovereign” in order to “depend less on non-Europeans”, especially in defense matters. And if you delve into European history, the Palace of Versailles is highly symbolic.

If the agenda has changed in view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this summit had been planned since the beginning of France’s rotating presidency at the head of the European Union in mid-December. And the location of Versailles had already been announced. The Élysée therefore did not consciously choose the historic castle of Yvelines. Still, seeing the European heads of state meet in this spot while a war rages in the east of the continent brings back memories.

103 years after the Treaty of Versailles

On June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles, the peace treaty – or Treaty of Versailles – was signed between the Germans and the Allies, heralding the end of World War I. The treaty, signed exactly five years after the attack in Sarajevo that ignited the conflict and right where the German Empire had been proclaimed in 1871, established the conditions for peace in Europe, fixed the amount of reparations and defined Germany’s new borders. It was drafted for months by the Allies and signed by forced Germans who saw it as a ‘dictation’, which twenty years later contained the seeds of a second conflict.

In addition to the Treaty of Versailles that is mentioned in all history books, the castle, the main residence of the kings of France, Louis XIV, XV and XVI, hosted another political summit in June 1982. François Mitterrand hosted the G7 there, which seven great democratic powers of the planet. A grandiose summit that ends with a dinner in the Hall of Mirrors and fireworks in the royal gardens, but without concrete solutions, according to observers.

Macron and Putin in Versailles

Since General de Gaulle in 1961, the presidents of the republic have occasionally hosted foreign heads of state at the Palace of Versailles. “For the presidents of the French Republic, Versailles is a way to gain the prestige of the monarchy,” said Frédéric Biamonti, author of the documentary. Versailles, kings, princesses and presidentsnasty Parisian† Valérie Giscard d’Estaing invited the Shah of Iran or Jimmy Carter, François Mitterrand Boris Yeltsin or François Hollande Xi Jinping.

“Welcoming a head of state is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a matter of amply honoring, registering this meeting in time, so much the place symbolizes the state in that which it has most preciously. And on the other hand, it is a matter of crushing its host under the splendor, suffocating him under the tricolor grandeur”, analyzed the documentary maker Frédéric Biamonti.

Ironically, Emmanuel Macron received Russian President Vladimir Putin there with great fanfare, just a fortnight after taking office at the Elysée Palace in 2017 in Syria and Ukraine.”

Five years later, and with the UN already estimating the number of Ukrainian exiles at more than a million following the invasion of their country by Russia, the President of the Republic will gather European heads of state and government at the palace on Thursday 10 and Friday 11 March. from Versailles. He plans to reaffirm Europe’s “unity and determination” and make it “a more independent, more sovereign power” in the economic, energy and defense fields.

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