FRENCH-GERMAN RELATIONS : A CONTRIBUTION TO THE EU
Madison (WI), le 12 avril 2011. Discours prononcé par le Consul général de France sur le thème French-German Relations : A Contribution to the EU au European Center of Excellence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Madison (WI), April 12, 2011. Speech given by the Consul General of France on the theme French-German Relations : A Contribution to the EU at the European Center of Excellence at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The European dimension of the French-German relationship
My German colleague has just referred to the Elysée Treaty which was signed on January 22, 1963. It is still the basis of our institutional and ntergovernmental relations with Germany. But another event is perhaps even more important : the Schuman Declaration. It was presented on May 9, 1950 just five years after the end of the Second World War on European soil, by Robert Schuman who was the French Foreign Minister at the time.
Today, this declaration is celebrated as the founding act of the European construction and May 9 is celebrated as Europe Day. What makes this declaration so important ?
- First, in his declaration, Schuman stated that “A united Europe was not achieved and we had war”. This was a clear recognition that there would be no lasting peace without a united Europe.
- Second, the definition of a new method to unite Europe. I quote “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”.
- And third, the recognition of the exceptional responsibility of France and Germany who in the Declaration are urged “to place their production of coal and steel under a common high Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe”. For Schuman, such a bold scheme “makes it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable but materially impossible”.
In his proposal Schuman clearly articulated that the French-German reconciliation and the construction of Europe are intertwined and directly linked to the question of war and peace.
Since then, many things have changed. The French German relation has evolved in a very unique fashion but Europe has always remained at the core of our cooperation, which is often described as the “engine” of the European construction. I don’t want to be too long but I would like to point out just three examples of great achievements :
- The creation of the Euro.
- The European Security and Defense policy that could be traced back to the implementation of a French-German Brigade, and the setting up of a European corps headquarters in Strasburg.
- The Airbus industrial success story
These examples are the result of a process mainly led by the French-German cooperation. Why is Europe at the heart of the French-German relationship ? :
- Europe is the only framework where we are able to transcend our national interests, to compromise and to make concessions for the common good. It is not about coming to an agreement just to please the other one but the objective is to move Europe forward. (ex : to forgo the D Mark and at the same time agree on the introduction of the Euro).
- France and Germany’s relationship is a sort of laboratory. Because of the French-German method established in the Elysée Treaty, we have constant open dialogue, we are always working towards reaching agreements, and we initiate and develop new projects that may later be extended to other EU members. It seems quite paradoxical but this important relation has been successful despite the differences in administrative culture, decision making process, and economic interests. Once you overcome those obstacles and reach an understanding, there is a fair chance that it may be acceptable to the others (example : reduction of CO2 emissions for cars).
- France and Germany share a broad common vision of Europe and the willingness to advance collective initiatives. It was recently demonstrated with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and the solutions that are sought to tackle the debt crisis.
To use a German definition, the French-German cooperation is a “Mittel zum zweck”, a tool to serve the construction of Europe. In France, the Minister for European Affairs is also Secretary General for the French-German cooperation. It shows that, for us, those are the two faces of a same coin.