It is an 8-May under the sign of the pandemic that the head of state celebrated this Friday. Emmanuel Macron arrived shortly before 11:00 a.m. in front of the Arc de Triomphe, after having laid a wreath in front of the statue of General de Gaulle to the sound of the ringing of the dead, and went up in small escort to the Champs-Elysées empty of all public.
Under a bright sun, he then rekindled the flame of the unknown soldier, in the presence of a single flag bearer and with a sword disinfected beforehand, before meditating to the sound of the Marseillaise sung by four singers.
Sheaf of flowers and Marseillaise
In accordance with social distancing measures, no forum had been set up for representatives of the institution or for the press. It is the first time that the traditional Arc de Triomphe ceremony has taken place at a minimum, without the traditional ascent of the Champs Elysées and review of the troops.
Alongside the Head of State were his predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, the presidents of the two Assemblies Gérard Larcher and Richard Ferrand, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Minister of the Armies Florence Parly and Secretary of State Geneviève Darrieussecq, as well as the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo.
Emmanuel Macron then signed the guest book with his personal pen before washing his hands with hydroalcoholic gel, and reviewed army officials.
“The morale is good?”
The armies were represented by their highest officials, including the chief of staff François Lecointre.
“The morale is good?” he asked several of them. “Our sailors are on their feet. Let the aircraft get back to sea as quickly as possible, we are proud of you,” he also said. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is still stationary while 1081 members of its crew have tested positive for the Covid-19.
On April 20, the Ministry of the Armed Forces announced that the May 8 commemorations would take place everywhere in France “in restricted format” and would be closed to the public. It responded to the concerns of certain elected officials, notably on the right, and veterans' associations who insisted that ceremonies be held throughout the territory.
“In the municipalities, the mayors will be able to organize, in a very limited format and strictly respecting the distancing measures, a wreath laying at the war memorial”, without the public being authorized, said Geneviève Darrieussecq.
A French flag displayed on the Eiffel Tower
On the Eiffel Tower was installed Friday a tricolor flag which will remain in place until May 15, said the company operating the monument. This installation was done “at the request of the President of the Republic” who retweeted the photo of the floating flag on the first floor of the monument.
At the Assembly, a tribute ceremony with a wreath laying also took place with the deputies present. “In their memory, the national representation remembers,” wrote its president Richard Ferrand on Twitter.
Emmanuel Macron was originally scheduled to travel to Moscow to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the USSR's victory over Nazi Germany. But the Victory Parade, which was attended by other leaders, was canceled due to the pandemic.