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Updated: January 21, 2011 23:14 IST

Unique and almost 50

    Jérôme Bonnafont
    Thomas Matussek
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THE START: A 'new and indestructible solidarity'. French President Charles Andr Joseph Marie de Gaulle (centre) welcoming West German Chancellor Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer (right) at the Elysee Palace, Paris, before the start of their first meeting on January 21, 1963. Dr. Adenauer said the sole purpose of his visit was to sign a Franco-German agreement of unity.
The Hindu Photo Library THE START: A 'new and indestructible solidarity'. French President Charles Andr Joseph Marie de Gaulle (centre) welcoming West German Chancellor Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer (right) at the Elysee Palace, Paris, before the start of their first meeting on January 21, 1963. Dr. Adenauer said the sole purpose of his visit was to sign a Franco-German agreement of unity.

The Elysée Treaty — its anniversary falls today — set up cooperation between France and Germany. A look at its impact on European Union construction and its potential to foster the relationship among France, Germany and India.

On January 22, 1963, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle signed a cooperation Treaty, the founding text of the cooperation between the Federal Republic of Germany and France.

Reconciliation for peace

After 1945, the idea gradually gained ground that the only way it would never again experience the devastation of the two World Wars was if new and indestructible solidarity linked Germany and France. Stalwarts such as Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman undertook this initiative. General de Gaulle, the liberator of France and father of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and Konrad Adenauer, a figure of opposition to Nazism and first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, inspired by this spirit, were able to sublimate their personal experiences of the two wars and make the Franco-German rapprochement part of an unprecedented vision, the founding text for which was the Elysée Treaty. This Treaty established interaction between political authorities and administrative machinery, and made the youth the key actors of friendship between the two countries.

The spirit of the “Franco-German couple,” embodied by its founding fathers, was perpetuated by their successors, to whom fell the necessitous task of preserving and enriching this heritage. The great Franco-German pairs were thus constituted successively (Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder), marking their mandates with new initiatives and new methods of cooperation. All ably nurtured strong personal relations, sometimes transcending their respective political affiliations. It is this tradition that is embodied today by President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The real key to the Franco-German friendship is the deep interdependence created over the course of decades between civil societies and the living forces of the two countries. We are by far being each other's top trading partners or source of investments. The twinning between local self-governing bodies, exchanges between schools and universities and the in-depth action of the Franco-German Youth Office created such ties between our two societies that a historic animosity was swept aside within a few decades.

Unprecedented, renewed

Almost 50 years ago, the Elysée Treaty had already chalked out the modalities of cooperation that remain the fundamental architecture of the Franco-German partnership: regular meetings between the Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence, and those in charge of education and youth affairs.

Over the years, these modes of discussion were considerably enriched to attain a degree of closeness unparalleled anywhere in the world. Today, it is not unusual at international fora to find the representative of one of the two countries speaking on behalf of the other. Since 2003, veritable joint councils of ministers have replaced the classic bilateral summit, and translate into work programmes. Franco-German Councils for economy and finance, defence and security, and the environment ensure the utmost consistency of national policies in the most important areas.

European integration

Standing out by its substantiveness, the Franco-German cooperation cannot content itself with classic diplomatic methods. The informal Blesheim meetings, established in 2001, illustrate this need for constant discussions at the highest level, beyond the constraints of traditional diplomacy. Without a set agenda and in a select format, these roughly bi-monthly meets enable the heads of State and government, accompanied by their ministers of foreign affairs, to coordinate closely the positions of their respective countries on all major international, European and bilateral issues.

Faithful to the spirit of the 1950 Schuman Declaration, ever since 1963, France and Germany have been clearly directing their joint action “on the path of a united Europe.” Indeed, they share the belief that their common future fully forms part of that of a united Europe. Together, France and Germany have given an impetus to major progress achieved in the construction of Europe: political integration, creation of the Euro, the Schengen space, or the expansion of the European Union to include Central and East Europe in the post-Cold War period, enabling the constitution of the second largest democratic bloc after India, with 50 crore inhabitants, and the top global economy.

Geared to the future, in 2010, our two countries adopted a “Franco-German Agenda 2020” for Europe. In the face of the financial crisis, the difficulties encountered by several Member-States and the attacks against the Euro, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel yet again sought together common solutions, effective and acceptable to all.

Germany and France are aware of exercising a joint historic responsibility in the service of Europe. Their ambition is to continue being proactive leaders likely to draw partners, without imposing themselves. France and Germany may never agree on each and every thing, and their legitimate interests may diverge or be in competition with each other. But none of this can undermine their common will to build a more secure and more prosperous future together, along with their European partners.

Germany, France and India

Germany and France are each, in their own way, historic partners of India. Both our counties have always been fascinated by the Indian civilisation, as attested to by our works on Indology, which remain global references. Max Müller and Sylvain Levy are household names in India today.

At the political level, Berlin and Paris have each chosen a strategic partnership with India, aware that the latter will increasingly emerge as a hub of stability, security and development in its regional environment and the world. Hence, we unreservedly support India's candidature for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. Not only do we, like other countries, not conceive the reform of the Council without the accession of the largest democracy of the world on a permanent basis, but we also wish – and are doing our utmost to this end – that such reform takes place at the earliest.

The Franco-German partnership also aims to be reflected in India's economic development. The major European industrial and technological achievements, all results of Franco-German initiatives, nurture the ambition of becoming privileged partners of Indian operators in key sectors, such as aeronautics, with Airbus, Eurocopter or Arianespace. The third generation EPR nuclear reactor, which India intends to be equipped with and which, in the long term will provide it with one-sixth of the installed capacity planned for 2030, in safety conditions provided by the latest technological progress, is also the fruit of close cooperation between Germany and France.

Lastly, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, we would like the new ambitions and the new instruments with which the European Union is now equipped to be placed in the service of a deepened partnership with India. The EU-India Summit, held on December 10, 2010, opened new vistas for enhanced cooperation in areas of security, such as counter-terrorism or anti-piracy.

The simultaneous presence of our three countries at the Security Council, post India and Germany's elections for the 2011-2012 biennium, offers us a unique opportunity to promote our shared vision for a multilateral approach to major issues affecting international stability and security. Germany and France are prepared to put their unique partnership of almost 50 years at the service of their cooperation with India.

(Jérôme Bonnafont and Thomas Matussek are the Ambassadors of France and Germany respectively.)

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