Emmanuel Macron Discusses with Students


After receiving the International Charlemagne Prize 2018, the French president discusses European issues with RWTH students.

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Livestream: Charlemagne Prize Recipient Emmanuel Macron at RWTH

“You are someone who is truly capable of inspiring others!”, said RWTH Chancellor Manfred Nettekoven, thanking French President Emmanuel Macron for the 75-minute discussion with students in the C.A.R.L. lecture hall complex. About 1,000 students took the opportunity on Thursday to meet and discuss with the French head of state.

After the award ceremony at Aachen City Hall, with a delay of about 45 minutes, President Macron entered the University’s C.A.R.L. Auditorium, which was filled to the last seat. None of the students, it seemed, minded the wait – Mr. Macron was greeted with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

“It was a tremendous honor to receive the award this morning. It is an incentive for me to continue with my efforts and the measures I have initiated,” said the recipient of the 2018 Charlemagne Prize.

One of the students’ questions was concerned with the French higher education system: “Is top-level higher education in France to remain a prerogative of the elite, or shall it be opened and made more accessible to create equal opportunities?” In his reply, Macron quoted a French philosopher: “France is an aristocratic, yet egalitarian country; we find equality fascinating, but we still follow aristocratic rules.” He added that “there will always be elites, and we need them to fill positions of responsibility.” However, he conceded that socioeconomic background should not determine whether or not a child will be successful – an issue that needs to be addressed in many countries, including France.

A large part of the discussion revolved around the future of Europe, but also touched upon issues such as missed opportunities and the lack of clear agreements. Concerning higher education, the general tenor was that Europe needed more joint degree programs between European universities, which should collaborate more closely and thus become more efficient.

Asked about whether there is a need for a common European language, the French head of state concluded: “The European language is translation. The many European discussions will always require translators. There will be things that elude translation, and there will be misunderstandings.” But in the end, according to Macron, such minor imperfections would contribute to furthering the idea of Europe.

Again, the president’s remarks were greeted with rapturous applause from the 1,000 students, many of whom went to the podium after the event, delighted that Emmanuel Macron was happy to take selfies with them.