France and Germany are each other’s closest and most important political, economical and cultural partners. The Elysée Treaty, signed on January 22, 1963 by the French President, General de Gaulle, and the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, remains the cornerstone of French-German cooperation, which is the main engine of the European Union (the two countries represent 33% of the EU population, 36 % of the European Budget, 37 % of the EU GDP, 31 % of the voting rights…). The founding act of the French-German reconciliation and of the European construction is the Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1950, which proposed “to place their production of coal and steel under a common high authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe”.
What is the Elysée Treaty?
It is a Treaty about organization and principles. Its main objective is to develop habits of consultation and cooperation between the French and German authorities through:
Regular meetings of Heads of State and Government, at least twice a year (today, it is rather twice a month…).
Regular meetings of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and contacts between high officials of the two Ministries, Embassies and consulates.
Regular meetings of the Ministers of Defense and the Chiefs of Staff of the two countries as well as Ministers and authorities in charge of education and youth.
Creation of an inter-ministerial commission to follow and coordinate the cooperation and to report to both governments. Today, this role is played by the European Ministers, who are also Secretaries General for the French-German cooperation.
A clear political commitment: “the two governments will consult each other, prior to any decision, on all important questions of foreign policy, and in the first place on questions of common interest, with a view to arriving, insofar as possible, at a similar position”.
The main fields of cooperation identified in the Treaty are the following:
1) Foreign Affairs, which includes European construction, East-West relations (the Treaty was signed 18 months after the construction of the Berlin Wall…), International Organizations, including NATO and the UN, as well as assistance to developing countries.
2) Defense, with the objectives to, for example, harmonize military doctrines, increase exchange of personnel, develop joint armaments programs.
3) Education and Youth, with the aim to promote language instruction, to ensure the standardization of university degrees and diplomas and to increase cooperation between French and German research bodies and scientific institutes.
The creation of a joint French-German Fund for exchanges between the two countries’ pupils and students is one of the most important achievements of the Elysée Treaty. The French-German Youth organization has contributed to more than 8 million cross-border exchanges since its creation.
What are the main developments based on the Elysée Treaty?
The structure and scope of the cooperation has expanded: new bodies for high level consultation and cooperation have been added in the domains of Defense, Culture, environment or Economy and Finance. The regular summits have been transformed into a Council of Ministers including different members of the French and German Governments while other meetings are limited to the French President and the German Kanzler (Blaesheim format). Constant dialogue between the French and German authorities is facilitated by numerous exchanges of officials. For example, there is a German Diplomat in the French Cabinet of the Prime Minister and another one who serves the French Foreign Minister.
New bilateral projects were launched: the French-German Baccalaureate (ABIBAC or common high school diploma), the French-German University, ARTE (a French-German bilingual TV network), a joint high speed train company, and a French-German history book. Another example is the successful organization of a joint NATO summit (Strasbourg/Kehl in 2009).
The French-German EU “engine”: Because of the method established in the Elysée Treaty, France and Germany have a constant open dialogue and are always working towards reaching agreements. This enables the two countries to initiate and develop various projects or proposals to move the European construction forward such as the creation of a French-German Brigade (which prefigured the European Army Corps and the development of the Common Security and Defense Policy), the successful launching of EADS and Airbus, the borderless Schengen area, the Euro or the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. Recently, the cooperation between France and Germany has been also instrumental in setting up the European Stability Mechanism and the Fiscal Pact.
How are France and Germany marking this celebration?
High level and symbolic meetings: 1) July 8th, 2012 in Reims (50th anniversary of the meeting between Général de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer), 2) September 22, 2012 in Ludwigsburg (50th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s speech to the German youth); 3) January 22, 2013 in Berlin (commemoration of the signing of the Elysée Treaty with an extraordinary meeting of the French German Council of Ministers and a joint session of both parliaments); 4) July 5th, 2013 in Paris (50th anniversary of the French-German Youth Organization).
Many events take place in France and Germany but also all around the world to celebrate this anniversary which should be oriented toward the youth and the civil society. Between France and Germany there are more than 4,300 school partnerships, 22 regional and 2,200 sister cities partnerships as well as 300 French-German friendship associations which are playing a crucial role in promoting exchanges between French and German people. To quote Jean Monnet, “Europe was not designed to promote a coalition of States but to unite the European people.”
Every initiative pertaining to this celebration could benefit from the label of the “French-German Year” and be advertised by the official bilingual website