Germany and France in the service of Europe – today more than ever!

21.01.2013 - Interview

Deep friendship can emerge from centuries of enmity – that is the message of the Élysée Treaty, and it is a message with worldwide appeal.

Joint article by the Foreign Ministers Guido Westerwelle and Laurent Fabius to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Élysée Treaty. Published in the French daily Le Monde, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and other publications on 22 January 2013.


For centuries our two countries were rivals, adversaries, even so called “archenemies”. The two World Wars, and particularly the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship, were the terrible low points. The recollection of this historical dimension throws into very clear relief the courage, indeed boldness, shown by Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle in signing the Élysée Treaty on 22 January 1963. The text of the treaty is short and compact, but its substance was indeed revolutionary: Germany and France commit themselves to nothing more or less than to trying to reach an analogous position wherever possible on all essential economic, political and cultural issues. Even after 50 years, the treaty is still apposite. The key terms in its preamble – reconciliation, youth, solidarity and Europe – still describe the core of our partnership today. Over the years, notwithstanding everyday difficulties, the treaty has created a closeness and friendship known only to very few nations.

Deep friendship can emerge from centuries of enmity – that is the message of the Élysée Treaty, and it is a message with worldwide appeal. Reconciliation between the Germans and the French has been successful. Recent surveys confirm that over 85% of citizens in each country have a good or very good image of the other. We have a joint history textbook, a Franco German Brigade, the bilingual TV channel ARTE and many other institutions promoting dialogue and integration. In addition, there are close links between people on both sides of the Rhine. There are currently over 2000 twinning arrangements between German and French towns. These play a crucial part in our intensive cultural and social exchange. Our economies are closely linked to one another.

However, we must not fall into the trap of taking all this for granted. What was true 50 years ago is just as true today: young people are the key to our common future. It remains our job to tell young people in both countries how exciting and how important contacts with our neighbour are. The many millions of contacts that have been established between young people in France and Germany are the special achievement of the Franco German Youth Office. We will continue its work.

Our friendship is based on a solid foundation of shared values. Both at home and around the world we are committed to freedom, tolerance, cultural diversity and help for the weak. That said, sometimes over the past 50 years, Germany and France have had differing ideas on how to solve important issues of common interest. But we have repeatedly proved our ability to show understanding for the other side’s position, our readiness to find a solution acceptable to both sides. Germany and France intend to continue to work together in future to find joint solutions to the major challenges of our age: to ensure growth and prosperity, to promote innovation and education, to protect the environment and ensure a secure and stable energy supply, to tackle new issues raised by the information age, and not least in continuing our commitment to peace, security and stability across the world.

Germany and France share the same determination to work towards a free, democratic, self determining Mali. Together with our partners in the European Union, we will make an important contribution to the future of this African state.

More than ever, Europe is at the heart of our partnership. The European Union’s successes – from the single market to freedom of movement for persons and goods to the single currency – would have been inconceivable without France and Germany’s cooperation and commitment. We want to continue to place the Franco German friendship in the service of Europe, and we invite others to join us. In the Weimar Triangle framework, Poland works resolutely alongside us to promote European integration. A group of countries which share this aim with us is emerging. By contrast, an à la carte Europe, where some states are happy to have the benefits of the Union without fulfilling the related obligations, is not an option we should consider.

The challenges facing us in Europe are huge. At economic level, the priorities remain to overcome the crisis and get to grips with the fundamental economic changes. To this end, we need consolidated public finances, but also growth and solidarity, to revive Europe’s economy and make it fit for global competition. In order to hold our own in the multipolar world of the 21st century, we must be prepared to constantly modernize our economies and societies, but also to continue the work of building the European House at the right time, enabling it to weather crises.

We want to counter the danger of any erosion within the EU. There has been a worrying increase in the tendency towards populism and nationalism in the wake of the debt crisis in Europe. We are countering this with a Franco German commitment to Europe. Now more than ever, our relationship can be a motor for Europe. As our countries’ Foreign Ministers and as European citizens, we are convinced that the “European reflex” of the war and post war generation needs to be maintained and continued in a different context. When it comes to the challenges facing us today, contrary to what you sometimes hear, Europe is not the problem; rather, it needs to be the solution. For that to work, improvements are vital; we must be proactive in making the necessary changes. We want a Europe which fully meets the expectations of its citizens. For Europe not only has a price; it also, more importantly, has a value, from which our citizens benefit each and every day, with more freedom, more prosperity, more security. That is the message of Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle to us today.

Vive l’amitié franco allemande! Es lebe die deutsch-französische Freundschaft! Long live the Franco German friendship!

By Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle

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