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They cheered when he stepped out from the black car in the Presidential escort, 20 minutes late from the schedule, on the sunny Wednesday evening.
Hundreds of people observed at the Market Square, and some got a glimpse of the French President Emmanuel Macron, 40, when he walked from the car with his spouse, Brigitte, 65, blew a kiss to the crowd and greeted the Finnish presidential couple, President Sauli Niinistö and his spouse, Jenni Haukio, in front of the gates of the palace.
I’ve witnessed countless of presidential welcoming ceremonies at the palace but never have I heard a cheering crowd when a president steps out from the vehicle. It goes to prove the point that Macron has a lot of fans across Europe all the way to Finland.
The welcoming ceremony continued with the national anthems, handshakes with the delegation and then the presidents inspected the honorary guard outside the gates.
Then they were supposed to walk back inside the gates along the red carpet but Macron broke the protocol and took hurried steps toward a small crowd standing next to the gates.
A group of students in the Franco-Finnish school of Helsinki was standing there, holding Finnish and French flags. Macron greeted them and took selfies.
After spending some time with the students, the presidents walked inside the palace for a gala dinner.
President Macron’s first visit to Finland will continue on Thursday with official talks with President Niinistö and, among others, a meeting with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.