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Merkel and Hollande pledge unity at Verdun ceremony

  • Merkel and Hollande commemorated the 100th anniversary of Verdun battle (Photo: Elysee.fr)

French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel and marked the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Verdun side by side on Sunday (29 May).

The two lay wreaths at a cemetery in northeastern France to honor the 300,000 soldiers killed in one of the longest battles in World War I, which lasted for more than 300 days in 1916.

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The Verdun commemorations became a symbol of reconciliation between France and German after the neighbours first carried out joint solemnities in 1984.

Back then, the picture of Frech president Francois Mitterrand and German chancellor Helmut Kohl holding hands in the Douaumont cemetery at Verdun became an iconic image of rapprochement.

"We are side by side to tackle the challenges of today and first of all the future of Europe, because, as we know disappointment was followed by disenchantment, and after doubts came suspicion, and for some even rejection or break-up," Hollande said at Sunday's ceremony.

"In the European Union we will continue to have different views on certain issues," Merkel said, adding "that is in the nature of things but it will prove beneficial if we demonstrate our ability to compromise to reach an agreement".

"Europe has problems but Europe has also managed to do a lot and it has come a long way. In a world of global challenges it is important to develop Europe further and to push through the changes that are necessary," Merkel said in her weekly broadcast.

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