Chapeau, Monsieur le President.
Hours into an overnight train ride into Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s leader, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi suddenly realized that French President Emmanuel Macron had a bit of a different setup than they did.
A short clip shared with the media from the leaders’ 11-hour journey to the Ukrainian capital shows the dawning realization on Scholz and Draghi’s faces as they visit Macron in the French president’s compartment.
As the two leaders sit down at a fine wood table next to Macron, Scholz and Draghi eye the posh trappings and smile.
“Is your room similar?” Scholz asks Draghi.
“It’s not like this,” Draghi replies.
The chancellor continues: “Mine is of the same size, but it’s completely different furniture.”
“Much less luxurious is mine. Mine is basic,” Draghi agrees, adding, “It’s only his room,” while pointing at Macron.
The three leaders were on their way to visit Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. While there, the plan is to discuss the war with Russia as well as Ukraine’s EU membership bid.
But en route to their destination, the EU heavyweights found at least one moment of levity.
After the initial exchange, the French president can be seen pointing with a pen at an object out of the frame, appearing to comment on Draghi’s train compartment: “You have the smaller.”
“On the other hand,” Draghi replies, looking at Macron: “The president of the Union.”
Indeed, Macron has often positioned himself as one of the most assertively pro-EU leaders on the Continent. And, at the moment, France also holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
It’s not unusual that at such high-level meetings, leaders show a more relaxed side of themselves, cracking jokes even when the cameras are allowed in. Often, the more serious discussions take place behind closed doors.
Macron, Scholz and Draghi were also immediately confronted with the heartwrenching realities of war soon after their arrival in Kyiv on Thursday morning. They visited the city of Irpin, on the northern outskirts of Kyiv, where the Russian army caused great destruction during the first month of war and was accused of numerous war crimes.
“It is terrible what destruction this war is causing,” Scholz told reporters in Irpin. “An entire city has been destroyed where there was no military infrastructure at all. And that says a lot about the brutality of the Russian war of aggression, which is simply out to destroy and conquer.”
He added: “And we have to keep that in mind in everything that we decide. It is a terrible war, and Russia is driving it with the greatest brutality without regard for human life.”