Almost 40 years ago, President De Gaulle ejected from France a red-haired German student with an elfin grin. Danny the Red, a French-born anarchist of German-Jewish origin, was accused of fomenting the uprising of May 1968.
Yesterday the same man, still red-haired (just), but now Danny the Green, was invited to visit the man who claims to be heir to De Gaulle. For the first time in his long, turbulent, witty and thoughtful career in politics, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, 63, set foot inside the Elysée Palace.
As a German Green Euro MP, and leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, Mr Cohn-Bendit was invited to meet Nicolas Sarkozy, who will preside over the EU for six months from 1 July. It was a deliciously odd meeting as M. Sarkozy made hatred of the "legacy of May 1968" one of the main themes of his election campaign. As President, he promised, he would "liquidate" the wicked moral influence of a movement which had, he claimed, eroded the difference between "good and evil, beautiful and ugly, true and false".
M. Cohn-Bendit is now a pro-market, convinced European and environmental campaigner. He has just co-authored a book called Forget 1968. He remains, however, a fierce defender of the spiritual legacy of the student revolt and a pithy critic of M. Sarkozy.
So how did this odd couple get on? Very well, as befits two professional politicians. The meeting was described as "very relaxed".
The former student rebel gave the President a copy of his book. He had inscribed the title page: "For Nicolas. Imagination takes power [another 1968 slogan]. When will it happen? Cheers, Danny." M. Sarkozy, to his credit, giggled and said: "I'll read it."Reuse content