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).
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.
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
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.
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
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.