Franco-German Brigade to Deploy for First Time
The Franco-German Brigade has been a powerful symbol of cooperation and trust between the two countries since it was formed in 1987. But the nearly 5,000-strong brigade has never actually done any fighting—at least not as a complete unit. Every time the soldiers in the brigade go to war, they get split up, back into their separate national armies.
“France has petitioned the German government for many years to provide assistance with military missions in Africa, in particular,” writes Deutsche Welle. “But for just as long, Germany has refused—even in clear cases of humanitarian missions.”
But on February 19, the two countries announced they would be sending the brigade to Mali to train Malian soldiers. Most of the details, including the size of the deployment, have yet to be announced. But the decision to finally use the brigade is a significant and symbolic step.
Around the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave some timid support for Germany’s new push to use its military more often. “We supported the French Army in Mali by helping them refuel their aircraft,” said Merkel in an interview with the Franco-German Youth Office. But, she added, “There’s room for more cooperation.”
It was just a few words, but Deutsche Welle noted that “many commentators in both countries view Merkel’s comments on German-French cooperation as a turning point in Germany’s foreign policy approach.”
Germany’s president, defense minister and foreign minister have given their enthusiastic support for this pivot. But so far Chancellor Merkel has been more cautious.
The announcement came after an annual Franco-German meeting of ministers in Paris on February 19, where the new, more cordial relationship between France and Germany was clearly visible. “In contrast to earlier joint press conferences, Chancellor Angela Merkel and [French President François] Hollande were cheerful and relaxed,” wrote Lara Marlowe in the Irish Times.
After all of Germany’s talk about becoming more active militarily, this is one of its first concrete steps. It also shows a serious interest in working together with France and other European nations. Germany wants to move beyond having a merely symbolic combined Franco-German armed force. Now, after 25 years, it actually wants to use it.