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France's Macron gets a ceremonial welcome in Sweden at the start of a 2-day state visit

French President Emmanuel Macron is on a two-day state visit in Stockholm during which he will meet Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, as well as the Scandinavian country’s monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 30 January 2024 14:29 GMT

French President Emmanuel Macron was welcomed Tuesday with pomp and ceremony at the start of a two-day state visit to Sweden during which he met with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and the Scandinavian country’s monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Macron and his wife, Brigitte, were greeted by the king in the inner courtyard of the downtown Stockholm royal castle that is the official residence of the Swedish royals. There, Macron and Carl Gustaf reviewed members of the Grenadier Guards that had lined up.

Macron noted that it had been too long since a French president visited Sweden — the last time was in 2000, when Jacques Chirac traveled to the Scandinavian country.

“My visit is therefore first and foremost to renew our friendship, our partnership in the European Union, and as Sweden prepares to join NATO, our alliance,” Macron said.

Asked about doubts about future U.S. support for Ukraine, Macron said he was “convinced that the next few months are decisive" and stressed that Ukraine is mainly a European issue.

“Ukraine is on European soil. It is a European country. And if we want a peaceful and stable Europe, we need to be credible in terms of our own security and defense vis-à-vis all our neighbors,” Macron said at a news conference with Kristersson.

Later Tuesday, Macron and his hosts are to discuss the future of European security at a military academy in Stockholm. Russia's war on Ukraine and Sweden’s NATO application are likely to be on the table.

After more than a year of delays, Turkey earlier this month completed its ratification of Sweden’s bid to join NATO, meaning Hungary is now the last member of the military alliance not to have given its approval. All NATO countries must agree before a new member can join the alliance.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Sweden and neighboring Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella. Finland joined the alliance last year.

On Wednesday, Macron and his wife are to travel to Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, in southern Sweden, where they will visit a European multidisciplinary research facility under construction and visit a company to discuss green technologies.

At home, Macron's government faces angry farmers who have camped out around Paris. They demand better pay, fewer constraints and lower costs. On Monday, they encircled Paris with traffic-snarling barricades, using hundreds of tractors and hay bales to block highways leading to the capital.

The French president initially was to travel to Sweden in late October, but the visit was postponed due to the Gaza war that began with Hamas’ attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

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This story has been corrected to show that the last French president to visit Sweden was Jacques Chirac in 2000, not Francois Hollande in 2014.

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