Macron opens Paris Peace Forum, slams nationalism as 'betrayal of patriotism'
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Dozens of world leaders met in the French capital on Sunday for the opening of the inaugural Paris Peace Forum, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an impassioned plea for world peace and cooperation 100 years after Germany's defeat in World War I, saying "we must not simply stand by and watch" as more conflicts continue to unfold around the world.
Merkel denouces 'Military Arrogance'
Merkel denounced the "national vaingloriousness and military arrogance" that led to the "senseless bloodshed" of two world wars.
She warned against taking peace for granted, saying: "We have to work for it."
In a veiled dig at US President Donald Trump's America-first policies and skepticism toward multilateral cooperation, Merkel warned that "lack of communication and unwillingness to compromise" can have deadly consequences.
"The concern I have is that blinkered nationalist views may gain ground once again,’ she said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned of "parallels" between the present day and the unstable and dangerous 1930s as he marked the centenary of World War I in a speech in Paris.
"As I see it, several elements today have many parallels with both the start of the twentieth century and the 1930s, giving us grounds to fear that an unpredictable chain of events could ensue," Guterres said at the Paris Peace Forum.
Trump chose not to attend the forum, instead delivering Veterans Day remarks at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial in the suburbs of Paris.
More than 1,500 Americans who died during the war are buried there.
Macron slams 'betrayal of patriotism'
Earlier Sunday, some 70 world leaders gathered on the Champs-Élysées to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.
French President Emmanuel Macron used an address to world leaders gathered in Paris for Armistice commemorations on Sunday to send a stern message about the dangers of nationalism, calling it a betrayal of moral values.
With U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting just a few feet away listening to the speech via translation earpieces, Macron denounced those who evoke nationalist sentiment to disadvantage others.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said in a 20-minute address delivered from under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
“By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.”
Trump, who has pursued “America First” policies since entering the White House and in the run-up to the congressional elections this month declared himself a “nationalist”, sat still and stony-faced in the front row as Macron spoke.
There was no immediate response from either the White House or the Kremlin to Macron’s comments.
In the week ahead of Sunday’s commemoration, Macron spent time touring World War One battlefields in northern and eastern France, repeatedly warning in speeches of the resurgence of nationalism, saying it threatened the unity so carefully rebuilt in Europe over the past 70 years.
In one interview, he compared the political tone now to the 1930s, saying complacency towards unbridled nationalism then had opened the way for the rise of Hitler.
In part, his warnings seemed aimed at far-right parties that have gained ground across Europe in recent elections, including in France, where the National Front, now renamed the National Rally, has nudged ahead of Macron’s En Marche movement in the polls ahead of European Parliament elections next May.
Besides France, right-wing nationalist or populist parties are on the rise or now have a stake in power in Italy, Hungary, Poland, Austria and Slovenia, among others.
There has been a similar resurgence in nationalist-populist sentiment from Brazil to Turkey and the Philippines, echoing trends in Russia and the United States and challenging the multilateralism that leaders like Macron are keen to preserve.
In his address on Sunday, Macron said that “old demons are reawakening” and warned against ignoring the past.
“History sometimes threatens to repeat its tragic patterns, and undermine the legacy of peace we thought we had sealed with the blood of our ancestors,” he said.
Asked in late October what he meant when he described himself as a nationalist, Trump cited his love of the country and said it was about putting it first economically.
“We’re giving all of our wealth, all of our money, to other countries and then they don’t treat us properly,” he said.
“For many years other countries that are allies of ours... they have not treated our country fairly. So in that sense, I am absolutely a nationalist and I’m proud of it.”