On 31 March the German and French Governments discussed growth and innovation in Europe, as well as the issue of combating terrorism, in a joint cabinet meeting. Beforehand Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel had met French President François Hollande at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin.
This year’s Council of Ministers was dominated by the terrorist attacks in Paris in January and the plane crash in southern France one week ago, which also claimed the lives of many Germans.
According to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, the ties between Germany and France had been reinforced by several “tough challenges” in the first few months of this year. She said that the crash of a Germanwings aircraft in southern France and the attacks on the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris had revealed the overwhelming mutual sympathy felt by each nation for the other. Merkel reiterated her thanks to the helpers and the population of the crash region in the French Alps for their efforts in recovering the bodies of the victims and supporting the families who had travelled to the area.
Hollande: “Franco‑German fraternity”
President Hollande also affirmed that the Franco‑German friendship had been transformed into a “Franco‑German fraternity” in the context of the tragedies of recent months.
Many ministerial heads from both countries attended the 17th Franco‑German Council of Ministers, which this year took place in Berlin, alongside Merkel and Hollande. Talks were held between the ministers responsible for defence, finance, the environment, labour and social affairs. Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius had to pull out of the Council of Ministers at short notice, as they were involved in the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Close coordination of foreign policy
At their joint press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Merkel and Holland emphasised that the negotiations with Iran were a prime example of close Franco‑German cooperation – as were the discussions on the Ukraine crisis in the so‑ called Normandy format with France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.
Close coordination of foreign policy between the two countries was also evident at the first Franco‑German Ambassadors Conference for Central Asia, which took place in the Kazakh capital Astana from 29 to 30 March. Here the focus was on the European Union’s Strategy for Central Asia, to which the conference contributed new ideas for its review and further development. As well as the goal of closer cooperation with Central Asia, Germany and France advocate that greater consideration be given to interaction with the “neighbours of the European Union’s neighbours”, above all Russia and China.
Franco‑German agreements signed
Yet the Council of Ministers also served to deepen bilateral relations: On Tuesday morning Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth, Commissioner for Franco‑German Cooperation, met his French counterpart, Minister of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir, for talks at the Federal Foreign Office.
Afterwards the two Commissioners signed three Franco‑German agreements on mutual recognition of university degrees, the simplified taxation of pensioners and the reform of the Adenauer-de Gaulle Prize. The prize, which is awarded for outstanding achievements in the area of reconciliation and cooperation between Germany and France, is in future to place even greater emphasis on recognising citizens’ civil society engagement.