Friendship upgrade

French-German Élysée Treaty to get facelift

French President Emmanuel Macron German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte take part in a group photo on the launching of PESCO
We want to aim higher, Angela. Source: Reuters

Germany and France celebrated on Monday the 55th anniversary of the Élysée treaty, which sealed the reconciliation between both nations after centuries of enmity. But this time, the celebration entails more than the usual solemn speeches and symbolic gestures.

Senior politicians from both countries are calling for an update to the landmark agreement in order to deepen the Franco-German partnership, which has become a traditional driving force for Europe for the past five decades.

The lower chamber of German parliament, the Bundestag, convened for a special session on Monday where members of the French National Assembly and President Emmanuel Macron were in attendance. A large majority of German lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution calling for “a new Élysée treaty.” Their French counterparts reciprocated in Paris a few hours later.

“Many French proposals for Europe that are currently under discussion must be answered in Germany.”

Michael Roth, German minister for European affairs

In a speech ahead of the vote, Bundestag president Wolfgang Schäuble said that the Franco-German friendship agreement had changed the relationship between the two countries “for the better.” But the world is constantly changing, he continued. “This is why we are taking the 55th anniversary as an opportunity to jointly develop the foundations of our close cooperation.”

Mr. Schäuble, who for nearly 10 years served as an influential finance minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, also noted that the lawmakers had more in mind than just neighborly teamwork. “As Europe converges, our two countries get special duties,” he said.

The parliamentary vote echoed a joint video statement released by Ms. Merkel and Mr. Macron on Sunday. The two avowedly pro-EU leaders declared their “determination to further deepen cooperation” between their countries in the statement.

The Élysée Treaty was signed on January 22, 1963 by then Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle. The accord sealed the camaraderie of the formerly hostile countries 18 years after the end of World War II.

The historic agreement between the two statesmen 55 years ago resulted in regular meetings between German and French ministers and senior officials. Politicians from the two countries consult each other on foreign policy to this day. On other issues, such as defense and the economy, things are moving more slowly.

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Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble (right) met his French counterpart Francois de Rugy on Monday. Source: Reuters

The election of Mr. Macron last year was welcomed in Berlin as a sign that the European project was finally safe after a calamitous year marked by the Brexit vote and the rise of populism across the continent.

But four months after last year’s federal election in Germany, the country still does not have a government — and probably won’t have one before April, according to most pundits. As a result, many overtures from Paris to revive the Franco-German partnership and the EU have mostly fallen flat in Berlin. Michael Roth, Germany’s minister for European affairs, said that lawmakers must continue urging their respective governments to do more in spite of the new agreement. “Many French proposals for Europe that are currently under discussion must be answered in Germany.”

An end to the political deadlock in Europe’s largest economy may finally be in sight, however after Germany’s Social Democrats on Sunday agreed to enter into formal coalition talks with Ms. Merkel’s conservative bloc. In the coalition blueprint, Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the SPD plan to “strengthen” and “reform” the euro zone with France to make it more resistant to crises.

Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To reach the author: hauteville@handelsblatt.com.

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