The Franco-German friendship: a driving force in Europe

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Franco-German Ministerial Council The Franco-German friendship: a driving force in Europe

When France and Germany signed the Elysée Treaty 60 years ago, they not only confirmed the friendship and ties between the two nations. They also committed themselves to becoming a driving force for European unification. This was the message from Federal Chancellor Scholz when he invited the French Government to a meeting of the Federal Cabinet in Germany this autumn.

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Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron, President of France.

Speaking after a meeting of the Franco-German Ministerial Council in Paris, Federal Chancellor Scholz stressed that a good partnership between Germany and France is not only essential for our two countries, but also for progress across Europe as a whole.

Photo: Federal Government/Kugler

From politics to business, society and culture, Germany and France are very tightly linked together. Speaking at a press conference following the Franco-German Ministerial Council, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed that “we are absolutely convinced that a good partnership between Germany and France is not only essential for our two countries, but also for progress across Europe as a whole.”

To mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Elysée Treaty, the whole Federal Cabinet travelled to Paris for talks with their French counterparts. The meetings focused on Franco-German friendship as well as the close cooperation in current European and international matters and with regard to economic policy. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and its far-reaching consequences was another key issue.

The two governments issued a Franco-German declaration in which they committed themselves to the bilateral friendship and outlined challenges facing the future of Europe.  

New thinking on reforms for the future of Europe

“It falls to us to facilitate progress in Europe and provide the necessary proposals,” Scholz said. “In the age we now live in, that is particularly relevant to the decision about expansion which we took together, where we have advanced prospects for the Western Balkans states, Moldova and Ukraine, and also opened up prospects for Georgia.” Scholz and Macron agreed that the process of expansion must be linked to reforms of EU structures.

Scholz and Macron pledged that future reforms would have to include improvements to decision-making mechanisms,  with the possibility of majority decisions on some policy areas within the EU, for example.  “That would be a major step forward for Europe,” said the Federal Chancellor.

European responses to the impact of Russia’s war of aggression

Scholz drew attention to the massive impact that Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine had made in many areas. He repeated his commitment to supporting Ukraine for as long as was necessary in political, financial, humanitarian and military terms. In the Federal Chancellor’s view, Germany and France are among the countries which have provided the greatest support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia’s war of aggression. The two partners are consulting closely on the matter of supplying weapons.

The events included a meeting of the Franco-German Defence and Security Council which issued a joint declaration. 

The war against Ukraine has affected Europe in many different ways, including impact on the energy sector. “That’s why we believe breaking free from fossil resources is the right path to take,” the Federal Chancellor said, stressing that reducing dependency on Russian energy had been a great challenge. Scholz: “But it was possible thanks to European solidarity. As Emmanuel has said, we supply electricity to France, France supplies gas to Germany. That is just one example of the many ways we are cooperating.”

Reconciliation: the first step towards European unification

A ceremony took place at Sorbonne University in Paris in the morning, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty. In his speech at the university, Scholz stressed that the treaty of friendship marked how Germany and France “had overcome centuries of ingrained animosity” between the two countries. Scholz spoke of how the Elysée Treaty represented “the beginning of a new epoch of partnership which has grown to become an inseparable friendship and affection as between siblings.”

Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle signed the Elysée Treaty on 22 January 1963. Since then the two countries have been engaged in a lively exchange in all important matters of foreign, security, youth and cultural policy. In addition, diverse social relationships were formed and have flourished.

That initial peace project had now been completed, Scholz said. “War between our two nations or war between members of the European Union has become something that we, who were born in peace and freedom, could not imagine,” he said, but he noted the new challenges facing Europe. What mattered now was “maintaining and defending our peaceful order in Europe and our values against the centrifugal forces within our union, but above all against external threats. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the European peace project for the turning point we are currently experiencing.”

Scholz stressed that the Franco-German friendship provided a firm foundation for this new European peace project. Shared values such as the respect for fundamental rights, parliamentary democracy and the ideal of liberal and supportive societies are what unite the European family. “Together we have been able to repel the idea that might makes right by using the full force of the law, both within the European Union and across the whole continent of Europe,” the Federal Chancellor stressed.  

Scholz spoke of how Russia’s war of aggression had broken up the continental consensus, but he emphasised that “Putin’s imperialism will not win out! It will be us, working with our friends and partners, who will write the next chapters of European history. And we will not allow Europe to relapse into an age where violence supplants politics and our continent is torn apart by hatred and national rivalries.” Scholz pledged to work with transatlantic partners to continue providing full support for Ukraine.

European sovereignty consolidates national strengths

Germany and France are working “side by side to strengthen European sovereignty. We are consolidating our strengths where nation states working alone have lacked the strength to assert themselves." This not only involved protecting democracy against the forces of authoritarianism, he added, but also cooperating on modern technologies, energy supplies, space travel and securing raw materials.

“European sovereignty certainly does not mean giving up or supplanting national sovereignty. It's about maintaining and strengthening it in a rapidly changing world,” Scholz said. He added that the European Union wanted to become a leading global location for future technologies and the first climate-neutral continent in the world. 

The Franco-German motor was driving Europe forwards, Scholz said, stressing that the motor draws its power from “our firm commitment to continue transforming disagreements and conflicts of interest into equitable activity.” Where Germany and France succeed in reaching compromises, “solutions emerge which are workable for others as well.”