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Monday, 9 July 2012

Vive l‘amitié franco-allemande! 50 years of Franco-German relations at a new stage


Yesterday, France and Germany celebrated the 50th anniversary of the special relationship between the two countries in Reims. Back then, in 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer have officially and ceremonially agreed on mutual reconciliation and have set an essential mile stone for a peaceful integration process for the whole of Europe. A few months later, this partnership was institutionalized and fixed through the Élysée Treaty in 1963. In the view of this historic moment, both, French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have honoured the achievements of their historic predecessors as a significant and unique step for Europe after the first half of the 20th century has been marked by violence and unequalled atrocities.

France and Germany – two leading nations of Europe, two powers in continental Europe who are not only leader in economic, but above all in political terms, and who have been dominating the European agenda setting and the integration process until now. Two countries who used to be mortal enemies for centuries, and who have been fighting each other in their struggle for European supremacy. Two countries who used to hate each other and who have forged alliances with other European nations in order to defeat each other, and who have shared the horrors and nightmares of World War I trench warfare at the battles of the Somme and Verdun, and the humiliations of being defeated by each other.

Now, the times of mutual belligerence seem to be a distant memory, reserved to the history books. Our generation is no longer familiar with this hostile past, we got used to this close cooperation with our neighbour, which in fact became our best friend in Europe. For Germany, France is not only the most important trading partner (even ahead of China, India, and the USA), it is the only reliable partner in the EU (from a German perspective), and apparently the sole remaining ally in a Europe that turns more and more anti-German – just ask the Greeks.

This alliance is currently in the firing line of everyone who opposes a Franco-German leadership initiative, especially in the view of the Euro-Crisis. Although these accusations are not new and the alliance is being accused of having too much power in EU politics and in its overall decision making process for years, it has reached a new level of hostility in the development of the crisis, specifically by those who find themselves either right in the epicentre of the crisis, or who have been opposing the Franco-German predominance in Europe for several years now.

Great Britain, the classic case for a notorious adversary to the EU and to the Franco-German partnership, especially blames Germany to use its best friend to implement its own will on Europe. British EU sceptics like the Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage don’t miss any possibility to attack Germany and its “invented Europe” as a tool to reconquer Europe through its “unified legal and institutional construct”, by using France as a willing and obviously blinded victim.

Invented or not, the Franco-German relations has been a unique example for a steady cooperation between two major countries in Europe since the end of World War II, and the levels of cooperation have been expanded since the Élysée Treaty. From a mere economic cooperation towards a political and monetary union with other European partners, the Franco-German relation was a shiny example for the rest of Europe.

Now, this partnership is no longer solely limited to the promotion of European integration alone, but its main task is based on Europe’s rescue. This alliance will concentrate on a consolidation strategy for the Euro-Crisis and it will have to do it with all the other 25 EU member states (including the UK), but especially with those who have been attacking the bi-national alliance for their previous inflexible austerity policies (in France’s case under the former governance of Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy).

The new stage of the Franco-German partnership is on Europe’s rescue rather than the continuation of its integration process. However, it is also Europe’s reintegration that has to be pushed forward, to prevent Europe to drift apart again and to avoid a break-up of all the efforts made and achieved in the past decades. France and Germany will carry this burden to help Europe through the crisis and to lead Europe out of the crisis.

This shall be the mandate for the future alliance between Paris and Berlin.

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