PARIS – Two French leaders presided over Tuesday’s official ceremony commemorating the surrender of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe: Nicolas Sarkozy, the outgoing president, and François Hollande, who will begin his term on May 15 (officially, Sarkozy’s ends on the 16th).

Since May 8, 1945, the head of state has presided over this event, organized by the army. But this year, since it took place just two days after the election, the outgoing president invited the man who was until less than 48 hours his challenger, to walk besides him, place flowers and together light the torch on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.

Sarkozy started the day with a visit to the statue of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, the man who symbolizes for the French people more than any the fight against the German occupation.

The statue is located in Place Clemenceau, near the Elysée Palace, the French White House.

Sarkozy placed flowers and observed two minutes of silence, and then his convoy took him along the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

Built between 1806 and 1836, the Arc celebrates the battles of Napoleon Bonaparte. All the way to the ceremony, the president could hear people crying: Nicolas! Nicolas! “He is peaceful, with the feeling of accomplished duty,” his adviser Henri Guaino told French television.

The ceremony was watched live on TV by millions of citizens who had the day off from work. The broadcasters praised the president for his “republican attitude” toward Hollande, for inviting the president-elect to share the ceremony.

Hollande is already preparing some urgent social measures, to be announced as soon as he takes power, despite disagreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over his economic politics and his wish to modify the European austerity treaty.

Hollande has a full plate waiting for him. For starters, there’s the G8 summit at Camp David, Maryland, on May 18-19, and then the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger