Germany and France will continue to share the responsibility for European integration and for intensifying the economic and currency union. Both Angela Merkel and François Hollande were at pains to stress this.
The political highlight of the celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Elysée Treaty was undoubtedly the Franco-German Council of Ministers on 22 January. After the bilateral meetings of the line ministers, the two Cabinets met at the Federal Chancellery and discussed future cooperation. In a declaration they announced the political lines that will guide their common actions.
Cooperation across the board
The common initiatives are to be open to other EU states and are to be made part of the European integration process. The main focuses of cooperation will be growth and competitiveness, energy and environment, justice and internal affairs, youth, education, culture, and foreign and security policy.
Specific agreements have already been reached on some issues. Franco-German job-seeking instruments are to be further developed. The aim is to establish a network of Franco-German agencies for employment in the border regions, with a view to making cross-border working an everyday phenomenon.
Focus on youth
The future of Franco-German cooperation will depend on the young generation. They must be encouraged to develop a lively interest in their partner country once again – that was the clear message of the Council of Ministers. In future more efforts are to be made to get people to learn the language of the partner country, and to encourage them to undertake internships, or study or work in the other country.
The work of the Franco-German Youth Office and the Franco-German University came in for special praise. Recently the two governments agreed to significantly increase the budget of the Franco-German Youth Office.
Young people were also mentioned right at the start of the "Berlin Declaration on the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty" in which Angela Merkel and François Hollande lay out the future priorities of their cooperation. "Young people are the future of the Franco-German friendship," they stress.
This is why Angela Merkel and François Hollande have decided to take specific measures together in the field of education and to help foster occupational skills. Cooperation should not be "too academic" and should ideally be open to young people from all sections of society, explained the Chancellor.
Contribution to intensifying the economic and currency union
Angela Merkel and François Hollande announced concrete proposals for their joint efforts for Europe and to secure the euro zone. They are "aware of their major responsibility for improving the situation within the European Union, overcoming the euro crisis and facilitating economic growth, thus making the tried and tested model of European life viable for the future," said the Chancellor.
In May the Chancellor and the President will be presenting joint proposals on ways to intensify the economic and currency union, which can then be discussed at the meeting of the European Council in June. The aim is to achieve closer economic-policy cooperation to improve social security, increase employment, step up growth and enhance financial stability.
Cooperation with both sides of industry
In the global context, competitiveness is of absolutely paramount importance, said the Chancellor. Politicians alone cannot put in place an enabling environment for competitiveness, however. That is why both sides of industry – employers and employees – are being asked to sit down together and draw up proposals. A working group is to be established soon to that end.
Energy policy – the issue of the future
The governments also aim to cooperate more closely in the energy and environmental sectors. Already, significant progress can be seen in the field of renewables. "This is to be the start of a new chapter," said Angela Merkel.
Support for France and for Africa in Mali
The most important topical issue was the situation in Mali. The Chancellor made it quite clear that with its military action France has taken on a role that, "will help everyone and will help Europe". At a donor conference the funding of the EU training mission will be discussed as will support for ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States). By providing transport for ECOWAS troops, Germany is performing a valuable task, she said.
François Hollande expressly thanked the German government for this assistance and for their political solidarity. France is acting on behalf of the international community, he said, with a view to restoring the territorial integrity of Mali.
The 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty – a celebration for the people
The celebrations of the anniversary continued after the Council of Ministers with a joint session of the German Bundestag and the French Assemblée Nationale and a special concert hosted by the German Federal President. Dedicated citizens and representatives of town twinning schemes were also invited to the concert. Since mid-2012 a wide variety of anniversary celebrations have been held on both countries.
Angela Merkel and François Hollande met the people in Reims in July and in Ludwigsburg in September. The website www.elysee50.de lists the events organised by numerous associations and initiatives. The "Franco-German Year" will officially end with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Franco-German Youth Office in July 2013.