“His visit to Lund makes sense to me”

- in In English, Nyheter

The Swedish flag and the French flag sway in the wind at the top of the university building on the day of the arrival of the French president Emmanuel Macron in Lund. Whilst the university has prepared with great pomp, the visit by the French president has left Lund's students with some contrasting opinions. 

– This is a once in a lifetime opportunity! , says Maja Hedin, a student at Lund University.

Maja Hedin is standing outside of the university house with her friend Fanny Hjort. They are both trying to catch a glimpse of what is happening on the other side of the police cordons.  Fanny Hjort and Maja Hedin are both excited for the arrival of the French president. This is, according to both of them, an enormous affair. How Studentafton managed to get in contact with Emmanuel Macron remains a mystery to both Maja and Fanny. 

Fanny Hjort and Maja Hedin.
Photo: Hedda Berg

– The fact that the president prioritizes a visit to Lund during his two day short trip to Sweden, to speak to the students of Lund University, is extremely cool, says Fanny Hjort.

Both Fanny Hjort and Maja Hedin have tried to get tickets, without any luck. Both of them have talked about what they might say to Macron, if given the opportunity to attend this evening’s Studentafton. 

– If I would have gotten tickets, I would definitely do some research beforehand, says Maja Hedin. 

– He is a president, so I wouldn’t just say whatever. Maybe something about the security situation in Europe, says Fanny Hjort. 

Maja Hedin would ask the president what brought him specifically to Lund.

  – He should come to one of the nation’s clubs tonight, she says jokingly. 

Early in the afternoon, a student at Lund University, who prefers to remain anonymous, had already been waiting patiently for forty minutes outside the university house. She was the first to arrive outside of the police cordon. She doesn’t know much about Macron, but she does know that both he and his Birgitte are quite important people. 

–  His visit to Lund makes sense to me. I mean, it’s often said that it’s the academic center of Sweden. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to get tickets to come and listen to him, she says.

Eleonor and her classmate, who prefers to remain anonymous, share the same enthusiasm for president Emmanuel Macron’s visit. They discuss how these important visits rarely occur down in Skåne. 

– I’m half-French, actually! I would say compared to other ones like Le Pen, I think he’s a good politician and he’s trying to do what’s best for his country. I like the way he seems committed to students’, Elenor says. 

Eleanor’s classmate intervenes.

–As someone who is 100 percent Swedish, I don’t know him well enough to have an opinion. It’s interesting because he doesn’t get that much coverage in the Swedish media. But it’s good that he’s coming. It’s often Stockholm in general, so it’s a nice change, the classmate says.

–  He was very clear about the fact that he only wanted students at Studentafton. I think it’s interesting and important that he’s responding to the feelings of students, especially as we are the ones who are building the future. So even though I don’t know him that well, my feelings are more positive about his arrival, especially as he seems very open-minded, Eleonor ads.

While some students, like Olaf, may not have jumped of joy at the news of Macron’s arrival, his visit to the university has still been welcomed.

– Of course, it’s good for the prestige of the university, but I don’t know if there’s any positive aspects. Maybe it’s interesting to see, but not for me, Olaf says. 

Johan Claesson, a student at Lund University has his books and computer spread out over a table at Eden. He thinks that it’s a positive thing that Macron is speaking at Studentafton. 

–  He is an important person and it’s cool that the university and Studentafton is aiming internationally with their guests, he says.

On the first floor of the social sciences building, Etel Thunberg, a student at Lund University, is writing on her computer for an upcoming essay. Earlier this week she had tried to get tickets for Studentafton with Macron. 

– They sold out really quickly, she says.

Isak Hilber. Photo: Hedda Berg

Isak Hilber, who is also sitting by one of the many tables designated for studying at the school of social studies, is a bit starstruck by Macron’s arrival.

– It’s always fun with celebrities, he says. 

Etel Thunberg thinks it’s cool that such a big event is taking place in Lund out of all places. She’s not invested in Macron’s politics, but she points out the fact that he is a controversial political figure in France. 

– Especially because of the latest protest from French farmers, Etel Thunberg says. 

The latest days in Paris have been characterized by protests and blockades from French farmers who are protesting at the increased prices on fuel and low income in their line of work. 

Isak Hilber liked Emmanuel Macron way more when he got elected as president in 2017 since Macron was more centrist than previous French presidents. Isak Hilber mentions Nicolas Sarkozy as an example. Sarkozy was president of the French Republic between 2007 to 2012 who’s politics were far more right-wing compared to Macron’s. 

– Today, I feel like my political affiliations are more left-wing than Macron’s politics, he says. 

Some find Macron’s arrival in Lund to be something fascinating and honorable for the university. However, this view is far from shared by everyone. John Strömberg is standing outside of the university building, which has attracted more and more people as the time of the Studentafton with the French head of state is getting closer. He thinks that Macron’s arrival in Lund is a sort of public relations affair and perhaps more of a show for the gallery.  

– I’m not that fond of him. Especially not because of his involvement with Qatar during the World Cup of 2022, he says. 

Annie Arcini Lundwall. Photo: Hedda Berg

On the top floor of Eden, student Annie Arcini Lundwall is writing on her computer. She was on an exchange term in Paris last year and during her time in France, she noticed how many French people her age weren’t quite fond of the president. Annie Arcini Lundwall attended an event where Macron held a speech and most of the young people in the audience were booing as he spoke.

– Personally, I don’t know if I totally agree with his politics, says Annie Arcini Lundwall. 

The tone seems even more critical among French exchange students at Lund University. Jeanne had high hopes for when Emmanuel Macron was elected in 2017, but soon enough, her expectations evaporated. 

– Personally, I don’t agree with his policies. He clearly doesn’t put policies and issues, like education, that are actually important to France at the center. In itself, yes, his role as President is to represent his country today. But, in the current context, this is not the time, she says.

France is facing farmer’s protests, and as it’s spreading he’s taking the time to party in Stockholm, Jeanne points out.

– If I had one question to ask him, it would be what he intends to do for French farmers, because he hasn’t made any statement on the subject, she says.

Co, another French student on exchange at Lund University, shares Jeannes opinions. 

– I’m not a fan!, Co says on behalf of the President of her country. 

She learned of the President’s visit the day before, and admits to not really knowing the background to it. But her opinion is clear-cut. 

– I think that in the current context, he should talk to the French, farmers and taxi drivers first, rather than be in another country, Co says.

Co hasn’t been in France for a while, but what she has heard from my family and friends has not given her a good feeling. 

– If I could, I’d ask him if he doesn’t have the impression that if the French are revolting to such an extent, especially at the moment, it’s because there’s probably something wrong with the government that needs to be changed, she says.