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France Fran├žois Hollande World War

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President Hollande commemorates centenary of Chemin des Dames battle

Fran├žois Hollande visits the Cerny-en-Laonnois cemetery during the centenary commemoration of the battle of Chemin des Dames. FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / POOL / AFP

French President François Hollande called on Sunday “not to hold Europe responsible for whatever we have given up,” during the centenary commemoration of the battle of Chemin des Dames.

“Now that Europe has been able to guard against war and conflict, let us preserve it,” Hollande said against the backdrop of the presidential election in which a number of candidates have suggested an exit from the European Union.

“History stutters when nationalism re-emerges with other traits,” he said.

Hollande, who was accompanied by defence minister Jean Yves Le Drian, former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and German ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, stressed the need to defend institutions and acts that have guaranteed peace for 70 years and promote strong Franco-German relations.

He also emphasised on the need to fight for human dignity and to reconcile with all the memories.

Speaking about the Chemin des Dames battle, Hollande said that a century ago it was a path of terror and suffering but today it is a symbol of peace and gathering.

More than 350,000 French and German soldiers died in the battle of Chemin de Dames in April 1917.