An order steeped in tradition
The people and institutions who are awarded the Légion d’Honneur become a member of this special group at the suggestion of and in the name of the French President. This Order was initiated in 1802 by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon’s intention here was to create a system that rewarded military and civilian valour as well as exceptional talent and services. The circle of people invited to join the French Legion of Honour is very small indeed. On the initiative of the French President Emanuel Macron back in September 2018, Ludger Rethmann, Board Member of the RETHMANN Group and Board Chairman of REMONDIS, joined this elite group on 14 March – the only German national to be awarded this honour this year.
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Secretary of State to the French Minister of Economy and Finance, presented the Légion d’Honneur to Ludger Rethmann
Special awards ceremony held in Paris
Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Secretary of State to the French Minister of Economy and Finance and former board member of Compagnie des Alpes (a sister company of Transdev), presented the Légion d’Honneur to Ludger Rethmann during a special awards ceremony. Held at the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Paris, this event was attended by four ministers and over 100 politicians and business leaders from France and Germany, all of whom had received a personal invitation from the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire. Among the guests were management and supervisory board members from the banking sector, the utilities and waste management industry, logistics and transport and the steel industry and energy sector as well as family business owners, board members from other French companies and diplomats from France and beyond.
After the ceremony, those attending were invited to a reception at the French National Library. This proved to be a great opportunity for the members of the Rethmann family, the ministers and the business leaders to discuss the Franco-German alliance and Europe’s future economic prospects. There were a number of guests from Transdev including Board Chairman Thierry Mallet and other directors and supervisory board members. Caisse des Depôts was represented by Board Chairman Eric Lombard and his deputy Olivier Sichel, who also has a seat on the supervisory board of Transdev.
Emphasis put on the close Franco-German alliance
Ludger Rethmann thanked Agnès Pannier-Runacher, President Macron and Minister Bruno Le Maire for the award. Taking a look at the close relationship between the two countries, Ludger Rethmann said: “The Germans really appreciate President Emmanuel Macron’s tireless efforts to further the friendship between our two nations and reform the European Union. Being a family running our own business, we fully support the open letter that he published last week. It is not only Europe’s citizens that need a strong and united Europe to be able to live a peaceful and secure life. Companies in Europe also need a strong and united Europe to be able to enjoy healthy growth and be a success on today’s globalised markets. The RETHMANN Group is looking to extend its activities in France and will always remain true to its values and principles: working respectfully, valuing others, focusing on the goals, promoting sustainable growth and – this is also important – ensuring the business is a success. We will continue to follow our collaborative and sustainable approach to overcome the future challenges of the recycling and mobility sectors.”
“The RETHMANN Group is looking to extend its activities in France and will always remain true to its values and principles: working respectfully, valuing others, focusing on the goals, promoting sustainable growth and – this is also important – ensuring the business is a success.”
Ludger Rethmann, Board Chairman of REMONDIS
Side by side with Bill Gates and Hubert Burda
As a member of this legion, Ludger Rethmann has joined a group of illustrious and high-profile people. Recipients of France’s highest honour include the French presidents, currently Emmanuel Macron, all prominent members of the Bonaparte family as well as leading international politicians such as Konrad Adenauer, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Charles de Gaulle as well as many international artists. The most well-known recipients from the world of business have been Bill Gates, Hubert Burda and Liliane Bettencourt. Right from the start, this medal could be awarded to people irrespective of their nationality, place of birth, situation or religious beliefs. Ludger Rethmann has now been awarded this Order as a German entrepreneur who has shown outstanding merit as he has sought to promote both friendship and business between France and Germany.
A sign of solidarity
There could not, in fact, have been a better time for Ludger Rethmann to enter the French Legion of Honour. Faced with the backdrop of the upcoming Brexit and the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from longstanding, multi-lateral trade agreements, Germany and France set an important example at the beginning of the year by renewing and extending the alliance between their two countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron met in Aachen on 22 January to sign a treaty “on Franco-German cooperation and integration”, updating the Elysee Treaty and taking the German-French friendship to a new level. The goals set out in this new treaty include working more closely together on EU matters, with regular consultations at all levels ahead of major summits. Moreover, they wish to create a Franco-German economic zone that should reduce red tape between the two countries. To ease the way, they intend to set up a Franco-German council of economic experts comprising ten independent members.
Defending European culture
On 19 February, the French Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire addressed representatives of both countries at the Allianz Forum in Berlin. During his speech he called on the two nations to stand together and present a united front, especially when it comes to dealing with matters of great importance. France and Germany, being two of the key driving forces in the heart of Europe, must move forward hand in hand to defend European culture and enhance its economic potential. Having invited Ludger Rethmann to enter the French Legion of Honour, the Franco-German alliance has gained another dedicated supporter of a more united Europe. The Rethmann Group has been on the French market for many decades now. Only just recently, the company was praised by the French Ministry of Economy and Finance for opening up a further significant chapter in the Franco-German business alliance following its acquisition of a 34% share in Transdev with its 83,000 employees.
(from left to right): Eric Lombard, Board Chairman of Caisse des Dépôts, Irmgard Rethmann, Ludger Rethmann, Board Member of the RETHMANN Group and Board Chairman of REMONDIS, Gerhard Cromme, former Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Siemens AG and ThyssenKrupp AG
Image credits: images 1–3: © REMONDIS