Macron Orders France to Avoid 'Overly Military' WWI Centenary Ceremony

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for France’s World War I commemoration ceremony to not be “too military,” sparking anger from some historians and political opponents on the right.

On November 11, France will mark the 100-year anniversary of Veterans Day, which signaled the surrender of Germany and the end of World War I. Sixty heads of state and government—including U.S. President Donald Trump—will attend the ceremony in Paris.

After consulting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron has made clear his desire to emphasize the cost of war rather than to idolize military effort and sacrifice.

“The point of this commemoration won’t be to celebrate the victory of 1918,” the Elysée Palace, the official residence of the president of France, said in a statement, as reported by Le Figaro. “The combatants were mainly civilians who had been armed.”

While the move is said to reflect the overall mood in present day France, which views the war as more of a “mass slaughter” than a glorious victory, according to Le Figaro, it has angered some sectors of the country.

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally (previously the National Front), accused Macron of showing “unprecedented scorn for our soldiers. "How can the president refuse to pay [those who died] homage to obey Mrs. Merkel?” Le Pen said.

Michael Goya, a right-wing historian and former colonel, also said that Macron was “insulting the soldiers of 1918.”

Another political figure who could be disappointed with Macron’s decision is Trump, who was so impressed with a military parade he attended in France in 2017 that he wanted the U.S. to host its own (the plan has been postponed amid reports that it could cost as much as $92 million, more than three times the White House's original estimate).

On Sunday, Macron and Trump reportedly clashed during a phone call as Macron warned the U.S. president against withdrawing from a Cold War-era nuclear treaty that Trump said puts the U.S. at a disadvantage, according to Reuters.

At the centenary event, the French president will deliver a speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe. As a leading proponent of a united Europe, Macron is expected to emphasize the importance of peace on the historically war-torn continent.

While there are no exact figures, World War I resulted in about 40 million casualties over four years, with roughly 20 million deaths of soldiers and civilians. In France, about 1.4 million died and 4.2 million were wounded. On average, according to the International Encyclopedia of the First World War, nearly 900 Frenchmen were killed every day.

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