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Franco-German cooperation in the Alliance for Multilateralism – and far beyond that

Foreign Minister Maas and his french counterpart Le Drian

Foreign Minister Maas and his french counterpart Le Drian, © Photothek

13.11.2021 - Article

Today (13 November), Foreign Minister Maas and his French counterpart Le Drian are meeting in Paris. This will provide a good opportunity to look at current issues in Franco-German relations.

More than two years ago, in April 2019, Germany and France launched the Alliance for Multilateralism together.

Paris Peace Forum (2019)
Paris Peace Forum (2019)© Photothek

Today, more than 70 states are engaged in this Alliance and are working together for even closer international cooperation within a rules-based order. That is to say, they are pursuing their own interests while taking into account those of other countries and seeking joint answers to global questions. On Saturday (13 November), this Alliance is meeting for the tenth time since its establishment, on this occasion within the framework of the Paris Peace Forum. Climate change and the COVID‑19 pandemic have further augmented the global challenge of addressing inadequate food security. At the tenth meeting, the link between these three major issues – food security, climate and health – is therefore to be examined more intensively.

The full text of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ speech is available here.

However, the Alliance for Multilateralism is just one example of close Franco-German cooperation, which has become even more dynamic during the last few years. The Treaty of Aachen – signed on 22 January 2019 by the two Foreign Ministers Maas and Le Drian as well as Chancellor Merkel and President Macron – complements the Élysée Treaty of 1963 and provides the central framework for Franco‑German cooperation in Europe and throughout the world during the coming years and decades.

When the Treaty was signed, 15 priority projects were agreed upon. They are currently providing the Franco-German Agenda with key impetus:

  • At global level, these include strengthening cooperation in the UN Security Council. Germany and France have already made history there with their jumelage: in March and April 2019, the two countries conducted their consecutive months of chairing the Security Council as twin presidencies, sharing the goals, agenda and events over a two-month period.
  • Franco-German cooperation is always imbued with a European spirit: For example, the Conference on the Future of Europe launched during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2020, is now reaching an important climax in 2022 during France’s Presidency within the context of the EU 27. To this end, the Franco‑German Youth Office is organising a consultation ahead of the Conference with young German and French citizens aged between 18 and 30 in Dresden and Lille from 25 to 28 November 2021.
  • The Weimar Triangle is another example of Franco-German cooperation with other European partners – in this case with Poland, Germany’s second largest neighbour. As recently as September 2021, the three Foreign Ministers came together on the 30th anniversary of the Weimar Triangle at its birthplace in Weimar, the city of Goethe and Schiller, for an exchange on the future of the EU and its eastern partners.
  • The Cross-Border Cooperation Committee, formed in January 2020, plays a key role in cross‑border
    The Treaty of Aachen 
    The Treaty of Aachen © Photothek
    coordination between Germany and France. Especially during the first peak of the COVID‑19 pandemic, representatives at local, regional and national level were able through their cooperation in this Committee to better mitigate the restrictions on cross-border traffic than those at other borders in Europe. Subsequently, a Franco-German expert dialogue involving the Robert Koch Institute and Santé Publique France was set up in order to improve crisis management and prevention in border regions.
  • A truly new element of cooperation are the integrated Franco‑German cultural institutes, i.e. cultural institutes with joint programmes, staff and management. A first institute of this kind was opened in Palermo on 14 June and others will follow in the near future, among other places in Ramallah, Atlanta and Córdoba (Argentina).
  • What is more, the Franco‑German Citizens’ Fund was established in April 2020. It funds Franco-German and European civil society and town twinning projects – without red tape and usually with smaller sums. Despite the pandemic, it has been possible to fund more than 350 projects using a total of 2.8 million euro in this way, thus gaining the support of new sections of society for Franco-German exchange.

Numerous other, both old and new, milestones in Franco-German cooperation could be added to this list – from the joint development of the decommissioned nuclear power plant in Fessenheim am Rhein to the establishment of the Franco‑German forum for the future and the work for better cross-border rails links, for instance between Freiburg and Colmar.

Franco‑German cooperation – be it in the Alliance for Multilateralism, in Brussels or in implementing bilateral projects – is steered by the Franco‑German Council of Ministers, which meets regularly, as well as by the Parliamentary Assembly, which has been in existence since March 2019 and consists of 50 deputies from each country.

Franco-German cooperation has once again gained greater momentum since 2019 – in the world, in Europe as well as in many places on both sides of the Rhine. Vive l’amitié franco‑allemande!

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