France, Germany confirm a commitment to a united Europe

24.01.2019 - Article

Read German Ambassador Schäfer's and French Ambassador Farnaud's take on Franco-German friendship and their commitment to #EuropeUnited in an article published in Pretoria News.

Opinion column in Pretoria News
Opinion column in Pretoria News© Pretoria News (Screenshot)

In today’s tensions on the global stage, where democratic values are challenged all too often, France and Germany are firmly reiterating their commitment to partnership, multilateral co-operation and #EuropeUnited.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed a renewed treaty of friendship and co-operation in Aachen/Aix-la-Chapelle.

This pledge to Franco-German co-operation complements the historic Elysée Treaty of 1963, which laid the foundation of our countries’ reconciliation. What for centuries had been regarded as a traditional enmity was able to develop into Franco-German friendship. After the confrontation that led to wars which wreaked havoc on Europe, Franco-German co-operation became the engine of European integration.

With the new treaty, our two countries are confirming their commitment to each other and to a united Europe, conveying two key messages:

France and Germany remain at the heart of the European project and reaffirm the need for increased international co-operation between nations. Our two countries are spelling out that now, in particular, we need more - not less - collective action in order to resolve the questions of the future.

Both our countries remain committed to the ideals of a strong and united Europe, which we believe can only be achieved through a robust and resilient multilateral approach.

With the changing political climate in Europe, specifically with regards to the imminent Brexit and the rise of nationalism, France and Germany reiterate their belief in multilateral co-operation. We are partners in working towards a more stable world, a world at peace and a world equipped with the tools to tackle the greatest challenges of our time, such as climate change.

The new treaty reaffirms France and Germany’s friendship in view of the challenges of the 21st century and the difficulties facing Europe today.

Merkel and Macron signed the treaty in the presence of the presidents of the European Commission, the European Council and president of the Council of the EU.

The aim of the 1963 treaty was reconciliation. The aim of the 2019 treaty is ever closer partnership and co-operation - with regards to our economic and social models, of our positions in international forums, of our regulations in border areas, of our economic analyses - with a view to strengthening European integration. Our mutual goal is to meet the political, economic, social and technological challenges of the coming decades.

This is why it is crucial for France and Germany, at this moment, to recall their shared principles and their commitment to the rule of law and multilateralism, their common responsibility to build a sovereign, united and democratic Europe, their commitment to open, rules-based international trade and the principle of reciprocity.

But beyond these principles, the treaty also lays the foundation for concrete co-operation projects to the benefits of our citizens. France and Germany will work closely within the EU, the UN as well as diplomatic services to implement the strategies set out in the treaty. One good example of this is our common programme during the twinned presidencies of France and Germany at the UN Security Council.

First, the treaty provides a mutual defence clause whereby Germany and France undertake to lend each other military assistance. The two countries will work together to strengthen European defence capacities. France and Germany are already strong partners in the field of international peace and security, joining their forces in many places such as the Sahel, where they help stabilising the situation, training local armies and providing significant amount of development aid.

Second, the treaty envisions the creation of a French-German digital platform for audiovisual and information content. We are already close partners in this field, as exemplified by our common channel Arte, based in Strasburg.

Furthermore, France and Germany will establish a citizen fund to support civil society initiatives in both countries, in the spirit of the Franco- German Office for the Youth, established by the Elysée Treaty that has enabled 9 million young French and German people to participate in exchanges programmes. On an economic level, a Franco-German council of economic experts will be established to make economic policy recommendations to both governments with the aim of creating a Franco-German economic zone.

Finally, a cross-border co-operation committee will bring together stakeholders on the ground to work on a strong cross-border development strategy, in line with the everyday challenges in border regions. Both countries have expressed their commitment to teaching the partner’s language and a goal of bilingualism in border areas. This will further strengthen the already existing strong human ties between our countries.

Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of a united Europe, was born in Luxemburg, had dual French and German citizenships and was bilingual.

Additionally, an inter-parliamentary agreement between the German Bundestag and the French National Assembly, creating a Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly composed of 50 French members and 50 German members, and a declaration between the German Bundesrat and the French Senate will be signed soon.

This treaty offers new opportunities for innovation, growth and prosperity both in France and Germany, but also internationally through our partners.

The objectives set out in the treaty are ambitious. Now we must focus on their implementation. We will only be able to reap the benefits of a united Europe if we work together.

This joint approach must also be extended to our most important partners, among them South Africa. We are working together on common projects in South Africa, as exemplified by the Franco-German prize awarded last December to Vuyiseka Dubula-Majola, a South African activist in the field of HIV/Aids and women’s rights. Furthermore, the French and German embassies in South Africa work as one team on many topics in the economic, cultural and political fields. The treaty is an investment in jobs and growth, an investment in peace and stability.

It is a commitment to multilateralism and co-operation on a global stage.

Farnaud is France’s ambassador and Schäfer is Germany’s ambassador to SA.

Top of page