22 January 1963 is considered the day when the Franco-German partnership was born. Back then, German Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle signed the Élysée Treaty. Enthusiasm about the Franco-German cooperation was initially muted. Many on the German side suspected that General de Gaulle simply wanted to extricate the still fledgling Federal Republic of Germany from US influence. For this reason, the Bundestag introduced a preamble to the treaty in which it professed its friendship with the USA and Great Britain, something that in turn De Gaulle did not find very amusing.
What’s so special about the treaty?
Eighteen years after the end of the Second World War, the treaty sealed the friendship between two countries that had long been regarded as “natural born enemies”. There has been no second example of such a treaty world-wide. It specified regular meetings between the chancellor and the president, between the foreign and defence ministers, exchange programmes for school and university students, several thousand twin cities, and not least the foundation of the Franco-German Youth Office.
How close is cooperation today?
In the treaty the two governments commit to interact on all key issues relating to foreign policy, security policy, youth policy and cultural policy. Since 1983, the Franco-German Youth Office has enabled more than 8.4 million young people from France and Germany to participate in one of the 320,000 exchange programmes or encounters. To commemorate the historically so significant treaty, ever since 2003, 22 January has been celebrated each year as the “Day of Franco-German Friendship”.
How will the Franco-German friendship evolve further?
In September 2017, France’s President Emmanuel Macron broached the subject of a new version of the Élysée Treaty. The project has thus far not really gained any momentum owing to the ongoing negotiations to form a new government in Berlin. The Bundestag and the French National Assembly intend to pass a joint resolution to initiate a new Franco-German Friendship Treaty. To mark the 55th anniversary of the signature of the first Élysée Treaty, the parliamentarians are convening for special plenary sessions in Berlin and Paris on Monday. In a joint resolution to be passed on Monday the parliaments will call for “new dynamism” for the partnership between Berlin and Paris.
The President of the French National Assembly, François de Rugy, will address the German Bundestag. After that, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) will travel with German parliamentarians to Paris. Macron hopes that a new edition of the Grand Coalition in Berlin will bring support for his reform plans. He has, among other things, proposed the introduction of a European finance minister and a dedicated Eurozone budget.
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