French and German leaders mark Verdun battle centenary


By BBC
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are marking the 100th anniversary of the battle of Verdun, the longest of World War One.
Hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers died during 10 months of fighting in north-eastern France.
France eventually emerged victorious.
But today Verdun is seen as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation, and Hollande and Merkel are expected to renew a call for European unity.
The ceremonies started with the leaders visiting the German military cemetery at Consenvoye, just north of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel stood in the rain as a band played the French and German national anthems.
The leaders then moved on to a ceremony at Verdun, where they will lay wreaths and unveil a memorial.
The main commemorative ceremony will be at Ossuary Douaumont in the afternoon, where both leaders will make speeches.
The commemoration events are mainly focusing on educating young people, and will involve some 4,000 French and German children.
Hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers died during 10 months of fighting in north-eastern France.
France eventually emerged victorious.
The ceremonies start with the leaders visiting the German military cemetery at Consenvoye, just north of Verdun.
They will move on to a ceremony at Verdun city hall, before laying wreaths and unveiling a memorial in the city.
The main commemorative ceremony will be at Ossuary Douaumont in the afternoon, where both leaders will make speeches.
The commemoration events are mainly focusing on educating young people, and will involve some 4,000 French and German children
Speaking ahead of the commemorations, Ms Merkel said: “To be invited to these commemorations shows the extent to which relations between France and Germany are good today.”
“Europe faces difficult tasks, there is no doubt about that,” she said, in what was seen as a reference to the EU’s continuing economic problems, its attempts to deal with a huge influx of migrants and sharp differences among individual states on the future of the 28-member bloc.
But Merkel stressed that “Europe has also done and achieved many things”

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