With the signing of the Treaty of Aachen, German and France have opened a new chapter in their relations. For 56 years now, the Franco-German Youth Office has embodied both one of the most wonderful and one of the most concrete ideas underpinning this relationship. It has meant that more than nine million young people from both countries have reached out to one another. Many have forged friendships, often for life, some have even got married.
At the New Year’s reception, Minister of State and Commissioner for Franco-German Cooperation Michael Roth praised the Youth Office as a bridge-builder:
I find it hard to imagine Franco-German relations without the outstanding work performed by the Youth Office. Reconciliation and friendship are not first and foremost the work of governments but of the many committed bridge-builders in civil society. Through town twinnings, school exchanges and other joint projects, they have helped over the decades to make friends of adversaries.
Exchange as a top export
Word about the Franco-German Youth Office has spread across Europe. For more than twenty years now, there has also been a German-Polish Youth Office. In October 2018, an agreement to set up a German-Greek Youth Office was signed. The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), the Youth Office for the Western Balkans, is also based on the Franco-German model. Since 2016, the RYCO has been making an important contribution to reconciliation and dialogue between young people from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
Treaty of Aachen bolsters youth exchange
The new Aachen Treaty of Friendship provides a boost for young people in both countries. In future they are to be even more mobile and keen to engage in exchange. Germans are to learn more French and the French more German. Mutual recognition of school and vocational qualifications is to be facilitated and there are to be more connections between German and French schools.
The Franco-German Youth Office plays an outstanding role in all these fields. At the New Year’s reception, Minister of State Roth issued the following appeal:
Personal contacts are still the best way of overcoming reservations about the unknown. We all want to be diverse, without fear. And the Franco-German Youth Office is helping us do precisely that!