01 February 2019

Élysée 2.0 Treaty - French-German Cooperation and Integration Treaty

Ştefan Oprea

Image source: Mediafax

January 22 is the day when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will sign a new friendship treaty in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle).

If the Élysée Treaty of 1963 has so far been seen as a milestone in the history of Europe, the 2019 Aachen Treaty highlights a much closer cooperation based on a unified Franco-German diplomatic alliance in European matters. The enlargement of the Élysée Treaty will demonstrate that the main axis of the European Union, consisting of France and Germany, will remain strong and will provide the frame to address the challenges they will face in the 21st Century.

On 22nd of January, 1963, French President Charles de Gaulle and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer pledged to pave the way for reconciliation between France and Germany by signing the Treaty of Élysée. The two leaders knew that through this act they would shape the future of the Franco-German relationship toward the European integration, seen as the only solution for a peaceful and prosperous future for both nations, after many centuries of violent conflicts paid with far too much blood, division and hatred. Since then, the link between the largest continental powers has grown in many areas such as political, security, economic, or cultural and intellectual exchanges.

In 1988, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President François Mitterrand signed additional protocols to this treaty. These led to the establishment of a Joint Economic and Financial Council, the Environment and Culture Council and the Defence and Security Council, later in 1993, transformed into Eurocorps.

The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty (January 22, 2013) has provided a good opportunity to look back on the success of the Franco-German cooperation that has essentially opened the way to European integration as a whole. The strength and depth of the relations between France and Germany consist in the fact that, after two centuries of rivalry and hostility, the two states have chosen the way of reconciliation and their representatives work together at the highest level.

Such a close connection between two countries is unprecedented elsewhere. From this perspective, De Gaulle and Adenauer have proved to be visionary about the emphasis on building trust between the younger generations of the two countries. In the civilian field, for example, more than 300,000 people in one country are employed in the other country, over 8 million students benefited from different forms of German-French training, and more than 80,000 students from both countries are conducting bilingual studies adding a value to their skill set.

It is also worth noting that the Franco-German tandem worked perfectly against the biggest threat to Europe: the financial crisis. Although Paris and Berlin did not have a common view of the future of the Union as such or of the financial governance at its level, they have taken bold decisions together, they have offered significant budgets to save the common currency and managed to attract the other European countries in their efforts to save the euro and the European project.

Unlike the civilian field, in the military domain, there were few common goals between France and Germany, with only modest capabilities cooperation on capabilities issues. The main activities of the cooperation were achieved through the Franco-German Brigade, created in 1989 with 2,800 German troops and 2,300 French. This was all the more surprising as the deadlock of the defence moment affected their ability to act and threatened the political and military base of NATO's and the European Union's defence and security policy. It had become obvious that if Paris and Berlin would not overcome their blockages, they would risk to accelerate the course towards a Europe without defence.

European defence capabilities, decreasing after the financial crisis and Washington's changing vision of the United States military presence in the world, plus the security risks in the Middle East and Africa, forced them to adopt a clear decision on the need to face security challenges together.

Without insisting too much, the structural causes lie in the differences between German and French politics. Firstly, there are still major historical differences in the strategic cultures which are mostly determining each country’s security policies. They mainly define the conditions of use of force: while Germany continues to diminish its defence capabilities, France considers that the military factor is a normal tool in the set of options that can be activated when its national interests are at stake.

Secondly, both countries ambitions, on the global scene, are totally different. On one hand, France still has a middle power role with an active commitment (Libya and the Ivory Coast in 2011). On the other hand, Germany has less ambitions for an international role and it is quite reluctant to be military committed, even in a multilateral framework.

Thirdly, the structure and policy of defence industries in the two countries differs considerably. While the German defence industry was 100% privately owned since the 1970s, the French state still retains control over important parts of the French defence industry. This limits the prospects for cooperation between the defence industry and other industries. Fourthly, the political institutions of the two countries operate differently. While in France the decisions on strategic issues are dealt with from top to bottom and the president has an important role, in Germany Parliament must approve important decisions. These differences are often creating incompatible expectations and misunderstandings.

The recognition of these impediments in 2013 highlighted the pragmatic need for cooperation and formed the basis for a new Franco-German agreement in the context in which the relationship is not exclusive but complementary to other countries. A useful bilateral relationship will provide the basis for the necessary strategic debates on common goals and the future of bilateral defence cooperation in the EU and NATO.

At that time, both countries were aiming to collaborate in order to determine the limits and political premises for combined actions and initiatives, and then identify how, how much and when these could be surpassed. We are talking about topics such as: Europe’s leadership across NATO (relaunching the idea of having a European pillar within NATO and the European capabilities offer), the Consolidation of a European defence industry, the Continuation of the strategic dialogue (to identify if their bilateral relation is the best tool to approach, together, the current challenges on up-keeping a political and military act capacity).

Europe needed a new deal, especially in defence, and France and Germany wanted to be at the helm. Because the possibility of cooperation rises out of threats and necessity and not of enthusiasm, it created an inflexion moment in its approach, not only for the French and Germans, but all Europe’s states.

Crimea's annexation by Russia has destroyed the European security order and reaffirmed NATO's importance, territorial defence and deterrence. Secondly, NATO's usage, doubted by president Trump as well as the spectrum of the US disengagement towards European security creates additional pressure on Europeans to address external threats, from Russia to the terrorist group of Islamist state, but also on each country in part.

Given these circumstances, from 2013, the Framework Nation Concept becomes functional at the end of 2014. The French-German Brigade becomes more active. As for the defence industry, France and Germany represent 40% of the industrial and technological base in West and Central Europe. From this point of view, with their industrial potential, both countries could actually lead Europe's industrial defence development.

Additionally, in the military equipment exports, Germany and France could define a common practice, starting from the premise that these are an essential source of income for the defence industries and are allowing states to maintain an industrial defence base.

Having these ideas and concerns, France and Germany think that the only proper answer to these challenges is the European cooperation.

The Meseberg Declaration “Renewing Europe's promises of security and prosperity” enters this behaviour. A common French-German declaration was adopted across the Council of French-German Ministries, which took place on 19th of June in Meseberg, Germany. Within this declaration, France and Germany share a common ambition for the European project and are firmly committed not only to uphold European Union achievements, but continue to consolidate cooperation across the European Union, with constant concern to ensure the unity of the member states, as well as its effectiveness. And in order to commit the European cooperation to a strong bilateral teamwork, France and Germany will sign a new “Élysée Treaty”, by the end of 2018. It was, the both countries’ ambition regarding the involvement of bilateral cooperation at the European level, but also to favour the economic, social and fiscal convergence.

Initially, the Élysée Treaty laid the foundations for reconciliation between Germany and France, 18 years after the World War II. Notable about it is Gaulle's desire to attract Germany in this French-German tandem in order to consolidate the European partnership, detaching it from the US and Great Britain.

Unlike the first one, the Élysée 2.0 Treaty is quite different. Now, Germany definitely has the main role in this tandem and president Macron is fully committed to supporting Germany to consolidate Europe's independence. Given that France and Germany are in a competition with the US, which wants to get out of the continent, and Great Britain is about to pull-out from the European Union, the moment to sign a new French-German friendship treaty is perfect.

The treaty will be signed on 22nd of January in the German border town of Aachen, a historical symbol of the European harmonies, and approved by both nations' parliaments in the same day. The more than 60 consolidation projects of the French-German cooperation are marking a new era of integration, an unexampled step, seen as a “prototype” for the European Union's future.

It is obvious that, with this treaty, Germany and France aim to have one voice only in Brussels, having common positions at the European Union's summits. From this point of view, the negotiations have ended and this binomial will, from now on, lead Europe's future.

Although some believe that this may affect the smaller European nations, the treaty will replace the current divided union with a more united European Union, stronger and safer. Also, even if the skeptics are saying that this treaty would be a loss for national sovereignty, it is actually an advantage from the French-German perspective.

By this treaty, France and Germany have pledged to strengthen their alliance in an attempt to demonstrate that the EU's main axis remains strong and ready to counteract rising Eurosceptic nationalism in the community bloc.

Both countries will reinforce their cooperation in areas such as foreign affairs, defence and security, between national intelligence services and police structures in combating terrorism and organized crime, and moving towards economic convergence. At the same time, they will contribute to strengthening Europe's capacity to act independently.

Although the official document was not published, it come out from the discussions that shaped the final form of the French-German Cooperation and Integration Treaty that the Treaty could include: strengthening cross-border cooperation; increasing the competences of the Euro-districts; creating a Franco-German economic space and engaging in the process of harmonizing the rules for the completion of the European internal market; directions on youth training through language and culture; close cooperation on foreign policy, defence policy and development policy; the role of Franco-German involvement in climate protection; aspects of social rights in the two countries; the possibility of developing bilateral projects, the realization of the unique market for energy, energy efficiency and electricity mobility; a substantial commitment to creating a digital union; involvement in the process of development and stabilization of the economic and monetary union; coordination of measures taken in the field of migration policy; initiating steps to establish a European innovation agency and, last but not least, consulting citizens on the future of Europe.

The same sources also indicate that the priority of German-French diplomacy will be for Germany to be accepted as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.