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A Franco-German perspective on the issues of tomorrow

Is there a European model and does Europe have the power to bring more democracy to the world? How are we to use our opportunities and how are we to shield ourselves from the dark side of globalization? And what is the future of the Franco-German engine of European integration? Young diplomats from France and Germany are grappling with issues like these in a joint training module in Berlin.

A total of 59 young French diplomats, all of them participants in the diplomat training programme at the Institut diplomatique et consulaire, came to Berlin from Paris to discuss with their German colleagues key issues in Franco-German relations and European policy, as well as items on the international agenda. The five-day programme is part of the training curriculum for young French and German diplomats.

At the outset of their careers, the young diplomats are to learn to keep in mind the other country’s perspective in their future work in foreign ministries or embassies.

“Franco-German reflex”

Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle at Villa Borsig, 4 June 2012

Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle at Villa Borsig, 4 June 2012
© photothek / Auswärtiges Amt

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Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle at Villa Borsig, 4 June 2012

Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle at Villa Borsig, 4 June 2012

Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle at Villa Borsig, 4 June 2012

The programme kicked off on 4 June with a chance for the participants to meet German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who was on his first official visit to Berlin. Fabius said he hoped the experience would help generate a real “Franco-German reflex in everything we do”. Fabius said the French needed to be told time and again “that the Germans think differently and aren’t simply French people who happen to speak German.”

Foreign Minister Westerwelle encouraged the diplomatic trainees to get to know each other and establish professional contacts. He said he was pleased “that the ties between our two countries will become even closer.”

Building common ground

The participants had more high-level meetings to look forward to, such as talks with Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, the French Ambassador to Germany, and Wolfgang Thierse, the Vice-President of the German Bundestag. Gourdault-Montagne described Franco-German relations as “the core of the continent’s stability”. Even in cases of disagreement, he said, one needed to “build up a critical mass of common ground, which can then provide a foundation for further development”.

The trainee diplomats spoke to Thierse about pressing European policy issues. They asked whether the Bundestag drives or is driven by European policy, and how the relationship between the Bundestag and the Federal Constitutional Court plays out when it comes to European policy. They also asked about the role of the European Parliament.

Thierse outlined the Bundestag’s strong role in European policy, as well as the differences between – and, nonetheless, cooperation among – the political parties on many key issues. The matters at hand, he said, were often challenging, but “whoever wants to play a role in decision making has to work hard,” Thierse told the young diplomats at the close of the discussion.

New ideas on display

On 8 June, the participants in the Franco-German training module presented the results of their joint work at an “ideas fair” at the Federal Foreign Office. They hope to infuse fresh ideas into day-to-day routines, and to do so from a shared German and French perspective. Minister of State Michael Georg Link also took a look at the different ideas at the fair.

The young diplomats present their work at the Federal Foreign Office

The young diplomats present their work at the Federal Foreign Office
© AA

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The young diplomats present their work at the Federal Foreign Office

The young diplomats present their work at the Federal Foreign Office

The young diplomats present their work at the Federal Foreign Office

Before the fair, the young diplomats had worked on topics such as “50 years of the Elysée Treaty” and “Why Europe?” in mixed French-German small groups. The participants agreed that this group work had given them a chance to get to know each other better and exchange views. Overall, the joint seminar was professionally, personally and culturally “very useful”, said French participant Yann Battefort. The seminar, he said, had repeatedly made clear “that in Europe today we can no longer work alone.” The young German and French diplomats should definitely be able to keep in touch with each other – in early July they will see each other again for a joint study trip to Brussels.

The Franco-German Council of Ministers established the joint training module in February 2010 as one of 80 measures on the Franco-German Agenda 2020. The first module took place in summer 2010 in Berlin. In 2011 the German attachés (trainees in the higher diplomatic service) travelled to Paris. This year 59 French and 40 German trainee diplomats took part in the module, with a Japanese guest diplomat joining the German group. All of the participants are just starting their diplomatic careers.


Last updated 08.06.2012

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