Europe Is Working, but A New Treaty Is Needed
By Genc Mlloja
Albanian Daily News
Published January 22, 2018
While Europe may have its problems, France and Germany have untiringly tried to show the positive face of their 55- year old friendly relationship sparing no lauds of each other's countries on both sides, and the motto 'Europe is Working' seems to be the highlight of events celebrating the 55th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, the pact that sealed Franco-German friendship after the Second World War, which will culminate on Monday.
"The idea at the exploratory stage shouldn't be to search for differences but to allow us to build convergence. That's the way we always built Europe... We share the idea that we want a more sovereign, more united, more democratic Europe," has said the President of France, Emmanuel Macron having by his side the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The statement was made on January 19, 2018, in Paris, where Macron and Merkel met on the eve of the anniversary of the French-German Treaty signed on January 22, 1963, by the then-President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, a landmark of post-war reconciliation and cooperation between the two countries.
"Germany and France can and should take the lead on many questions (related to Europe) and therefore I understand that France is waiting until we have a new government," said Merkel at the joint press conference with Macron.
The veteran German leader has yet to form a governing coalition, but that delay did not stop Merkel from offering her support for her French counterpart's proposals for Europe.
"On a broad basis, there is absolutely no difference that I see. It is a Europe that must have a common foreign policy on strategic questions, a Europe that must create its own development policies, a Europe of defense, and it is a Europe that has to be economically strong," said Merkel.
Both Macron and Merkel pledged to accelerate efforts to reform Europe as they prepared a joint declaration to form the basis of a new Franco-German Elysée Treaty, which, as they said, would be published on Monday, coinciding with the 55th anniversary of the accord.
'Franco-German Couple Is Still Functioning'
Mr. Marion Gaillard, a specialist in Franco-German relations at Sciences Po Paris, speaking to FRANCE 24 about the state of Franco-German bilateral relations on the eve of the 55th anniversary of the Elysée treaty, said that although Merkel is having difficulties in forming a government, the visit to Paris was, first and foremost, a symbolic visit meaning to illustrate that the Franco-German couple is still functioning.
"This meeting also shows that Macron is banking on continuity and Merkel's anticipated renewal as chancellor. Of course, as the Élysée presidential palace announced, the future of the EU will be on the menu of discussions but they couldn't be very advanced talks," he said.
"Actually, France or Germany alone, do not have sufficient legitimacy to take the lead in Europe. France, on the one hand, doesn't have the necessary economic results and is sometimes seen by partners as arrogant. Germany, on the other hand, doesn't really appreciate the idea that it must drag all of Europe along with it - it isn't in Germany's nature. So the two countries complete each other well. Macron and Merkel will have to share the leadership," noted Mr. Marion Gaillard.
In the meantime, both France and Germany are the key promoters of the so called Berlin Process for the Western Balkans launched by German Chancellor, Merkel in 2014, and Mr. Macron has been a strong supporter of the Initiative.
It is worthwhile to quote what the French President said in his speech entitled 'Initiative for Europe' held at Paris La Sorbonne on 26 September 2017: "When they fully respect the acquis and democratic requirements, this EU will have to open itself up to the Balkan countries, because our EU is still attractive and its aura is a key factor of peace and stability on our continent. They'll have to respect the conditions stipulated, but securing them to a European Union reinvented in this way is a precondition for their not turning their backs on Europe and moving towards either Russia or Turkey, or towards authoritarian powers that don't currently uphold our values."
To commemorate the anniversary of the French-German Treaty, the Ambassadors of France and Germany to Albania, Christina Vasak and Susanne Schutz, will jointly organize the showing of the movie 'Frantz', which will be followed by a discussion on the Franco-German relations. The event will take place at the Millenium Cinema in Tirana on January 22 at 5pm.
What is actually in the Elysee Treaty?
Just 18 years after the end of World War II, Germany and France signed the Elysee Treaty. The actual document, seen as a milestone of reconciliation, is surprisingly brief. So, what does it actually contain? The Elysee Treaty, signed by the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic and outlining the future of a Franco-German friendship, is just under six pages. Written in very factual language, the text was signed on January 22, 1963 by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and President Charles de Gaulle at the Elysee Palace in Paris. It came into force later that year, on July 2. During the ratification process, the German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, added a preamble that laid down the bond with West Germany's trans-Atlantic partner, the United States, and expressed a commitment to German reunification. The preamble angered de Gaulle, who felt that the architecture of the treaty was being undermined. After all, de Gaulle had wanted to bind Germany tighter to France, to strengthen his standoffish foreign policy toward the US and the UK.
The treaty stipulated that German and French government representatives should meet and speak with other at regular intervals. In addition, all major decisions concerning security and defense policy were to be coordinated; Article II of the treaty stated that "the two governments will consult each other, prior to any decision, on all important questions of foreign policy...". This condition applied especially to any issues that had to do with the European Community, NATO and relations between Eastern and Western Europe. In addition, Adenauer and de Gaulle also pledged a close cooperation in the areas of culture and youth policy, with language exchange and learning to be encouraged. This decision resulted in the founding of the Franco-German Youth Office in the summer of 1993.
The treaty did not include any specific requirements, nor did it define any political goals. In fact, the contract, with its few paragraphs, was merely the blueprint for the Franco-German motor that would eventually drive Europe. Step by step, the treaty slowly began to come to life in the years after it was signed. In 1988, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Francois Mitterrand established an additional safety and defense council, as well as a council for economic and fiscal policy. Over the last 12 years there have been additional informal meetings between the heads of state and foreign ministers, named after the first such summit that took place in the French town of Blaesheim in 2001. A half century later the Elysee Treaty still forms a part of the Franco-German consultation process, though the contents of those discussions have changed dramatically. The consequences of German reunification and the enlargement of the European Union, at the center of the discussion in the 1990s, have since been replaced by the divergence of views on how to solve the eurozone debt crisis.