Brita Wagener, the German Ambassador to Iraq, reports about the joint ceremony with the French Ambassador in Baghdad to mark fifty years of the Élysée Treaty.
In Baghdad, too, the French Ambassador and myself celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Franco-German Treaty of Friendship on 22 January 2013 – which, given the security situation, was not a matter of course. Although conditions have improved in recent years, the continuing risk of attack still considerably impairs our activities. For example, I can only visit places which are not too exposed or unprotected and are not located right next to a busy road. However, a room on the top floor of the Ishtar hotel with a wonderful view of the city and the Tigris was quickly identified as a suitable venue.
Joint ceremony with Iraqi and international guests
My own and my French colleague’s speech, an exhibition and a documentary on the history of the Élysée Treaty were well received by the around 200 guests from the world of politics, the diplomatic corps and Iraqi civil society, as were the French wine and the German beer served with the meal.
French Ambassador Denys Gauer, who delivered his speech in German, described the unique nature of the relations between our two countries as follows: “Germany and France have always had an issue with Alsace and Lorraine. I was born in Lorraine. Although I am French I have a German name. My mother tongue was not German but it was a German dialect.”
In my address, which I gave in French, I talked about personal experiences linked to the Franco-German friendship, about my stay in Angoulême as a 16-year-old exchange student and later about a Foreign Office colleague who, while on an exchange at the Quai d’Orsay, spoke on behalf of France at a CSCE conference – much to the surprise of the German delegation.
A small contribution to normal social life in Baghdad
The Franco-German success story made many Iraqis think, given the internal strife and Iraq’s difficult relations with some of its neighbours. At the same time the event rendered a small contribution to normal social life in Baghdad, a life which the inhabitants of the city must rebuild following dictatorship, wars and occupation.