Germany, France Closer
January 22 marked the 40th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, a cooperation alliance between Germany and France within the context of a post-World War II uniting Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, however, there have been differences between the two on several key policies. French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder both sought to use the anniversary as a chance to infuse new life into their relationship.
Items on the discussion agenda included holding regular joint cabinet meetings, the aim of presenting the same policies on international bodies, a move toward identical family and civil laws for both countries, and even a commitment to the goal of dual nationality for French and German citizens.
The Franco-German anniversary was one of a kind. For the first time, the German Bundestag and the French National Assembly met in a joint session at the Versailles palace near Paris. This is the equivalent of the United States Congress meeting with the British Parliament!
Schröder called it “an impressive sign of the substance of our relations, of a friendship that is much more than a pact among governments” (BBC News, Jan. 22).
It is also a hugely symbolic gesture in that it sets the focus of Europe back to when the Versailles Treaty was signed by both these nations. Many, especially within Germany and the Vatican, view Versailles as sowing the seeds that resulted in World War II. Germany was never satisfied with the division of national boundaries and with the reparations imposed upon it by the Allied nations at Versailles. To hold this unprecedented session of the parliaments of both Germany and France at Versailles is really saying to the world, We are taking Europe back to the situation before Versailles, and renegotiating a united Europe the way we think it ought to be set up.
Most significant in all of this is that it leaves Britain, defender of freedom in Europe in both world wars, sitting out in the cold. The strongest of signals is being sent to Britain, to all European nations and to the world that a Franco-German alliance is back in control of the continent of Europe!
Germany and France feel they must be united in vision before Europe can move forward. Chirac said recently, “When France and Germany are getting on, Europe advances. When they are not, Europe is blocked” (Agence France-Presse, Jan. 14).
Continue to watch for Germany and France to come together in an unprecedented level of cooperation.