Yesterday, the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly met in Paris for the first time. The representatives of both countries want to use this forum to also discuss controversial issues. Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth represented the Federal Foreign Office at the inaugural session. Marking the occasion, he said:
The only way to improve Europe is to talk with – not about – one another. Our two countries now have the opportunity to cooperate more closely than ever before. I hope that the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly will be strongly characterised by the things that make our friendship so special: openness, eagerness to engage in dialogue, debate the issues and find viable compromises that strengthen and unify Europe.
Lively debates, also on uncomfortable issues
The Assembly is comprises of 100 representatives, with 50 appointed, respectively, by the German Bundestag and the French Assemblée nationale. Going forward, it will meet twice per year. It is a historic achievement, having been established 100 years after the German and French parliaments approved war loans against the respective other country. The Assembly wants to host lively debates, also on uncomfortable issues. Furthermore, it has very specific tasks. It will
• support the Franco-German Council of Ministers, including implementation of its respective decisions
• assist Franco-German cooperation, especially as regards the Franco-German Defence and Security Council and Europe’s foreign security and defence policies
• monitor implementation of the Franco-German Treaty of Aachen and the Élysée Treaty
Simplifying the lives of citizens in concrete ways
Two key tasks of the representatives will be improving joint transposition of EU directives into national law, and enhancing cross-border cooperation. Both of these tasks can markedly improve and simplify citizens’ lives. The focus will be on issues such as emergency care, long-term healthcare, child care and vocational training. A joint early warning mechanism is part of this effort. It is designed to signal at an early stage when conflicting interests exist, so that it becomes easier for Germany and France to find solutions also on controversial issues. All important and contentious topics will be examined, including that of a European army and energy-related issues (coal and nuclear power).
A positive culture of debate
All of this goes to show that the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly is not a fair-weather parliament, but rather a forum for a new, positive culture of debate that will promote better understanding among the representatives of both countries. In order to find joint solutions in a difficult international environment, early coordination and open debate are needed. This new Assembly can decisively contribute to that end.