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France and Germany


Germany – Harlem Désir’s participation in the conference on French-German cross-border cooperation (Metz, July 6 to 7, 2015)

Two years after the conference in Saarbrücken in July 2013, the conference in Metz will provide an opportunity to bring together a large number of locally elected officials and civil society actors. It will provide an opportunity to adopt a new common agenda for cross-border cooperation, which will cover all major issues affecting the daily lives of our fellow citizens living in border regions, including in particular mobility, training and employment.

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Bilateral relations

At the end of the Second World War, the reconciliation between France and Germany, universally considered as the condition for peace in Europe, seemed uncertain, as France’s policy sought to contain Germany’s recovery and anti-French sentiment was running high, particularly in French-occupied areas. However, initiatives began to emerge in 1945 aimed at fostering closer relations between the two countries, and decentralized cooperation played a major role at that time, such as town twinning, even if these programmes still reached only a limited number of people. Several dates then represented major steps forward in reconciliation and cooperation between France and Germany. Responding to a declaration by Federal Chancellor Adenauer in March 1950, calling for closer relations between the two countries, Robert Schuman’s 9 May 1950 declaration set out the concept of the “Europe of small steps” and led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. The reconciliation had begun and political and cultural relations saw sustained growth. The Rome treaties of the European Communities (1957) enshrined Franco-German cooperation as a condition and engine for European integration.

The Élysée Treaty on Franco-German Friendship, signed on 22 January 1963 by German Federal Chancellor Adenauer and France’s General de Gaulle, became the symbol of the relationship forged between France and Germany. It addresses three goals, set out in the brief joint statement accompanying the Treaty: sealing France and Germany’s reconciliation; creating a genuine friendship between the two countries; and thus fostering the construction of “a united Europe, which is the goal of the two peoples.” The Treaty established a binding schedule of regular meetings at all levels (heads of State and government, ministers and senior officials), aimed at encouraging a reflex of cooperation between the two countries.

These provisions were then specified and extended through the creation of new structures for cooperation. Thus, in 1988, on the 25ᵗʰ anniversary of the Treaty, the Franco-German Defence and Security Council (CFADS/DFVSR), the Franco-German Brigade, the Franco-German Financial and Economic Council (CEFFA/DFFWR), the Franco-German Environment Council (CFAE), and the Franco-German Cultural Council (HCCFA/DFKR).

At political level, the Treaty “cemented” sustained, intense relations. It acted as a catalyst for Franco-German initiatives, which spurred on each major step forward in European integration including the Single European Act, the Treaty of Maastricht, the Euro, the Schengen Area, and the construction of a European Security and Defence Policy, through to the establishment of the Banking Union.

The close institutional and political partnership between the two countries was strengthened on the occasion of the 40ᵗʰ anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, on 22 January 2003, with the creation of the Franco-German Council of Ministers (CMFA/DFMR, see below).

The adoption of the “Franco-German Agenda 2020” during the Franco-German Council of Ministers meeting of 4 February 2010 marked the beginning of a new phase of this relationship.

Its meeting on 6 February 2012 decided the holding of a “Franco-German year: 50 Years of the Élysée Treaty”, which was inaugurated in Ludwigsburg on 22 September 2012 by the President of the Federal Republic and the German Federal Chancellor, and which was followed by a State visit to France by the German Federal President from 3 to 5 September 2013, which was marked in particular by a trip to the martyred town of Oradour-sur-Glane.

This jubilee year, which was focused around young people, culminated on 22 January 2013, on the anniversary of the signing of the Élysée Treaty. On this occasion, members of the two governments and parliaments met in Berlin. The Franco-German Council of Ministers also enabled the adoption of a political declaration of the President of the French Republic and the German Federal Chancellor, as well as an intergovernmental declaration setting out new prospects for bilateral cooperation. This anniversary was marked by numerous events in both France and Germany, as well as in third countries, through the support of the Franco-German Fund for third countries.
The latest (17ᵗʰ) Franco-German Council of Ministers was held in Berlin on 31 March 2015. Its work focused on the fields of defence, investment, energy, digital technology, counter-terrorism and social integration.

Enhanced intergovernmental dialogue structures

Placing the Franco-German relationship back in a European perspective, the declaration adopted on the occasion of the 40 anniversary of the Élysée Treaty provides for several measures to strengthen bilateral cooperation procedures: holding Franco-German summits in the form of Franco-German Council of Ministers (CMFA/DFMR) meetings; and designation in each country of a Secretary-General for Franco-German cooperation, responsible for coordinating the preparation and follow-up of political decisions and closer ties between the two countries in European forums. These functions are currently exercised for France by Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State responsible for European Affairs, and for Germany by Mr Michael Roth (SPD), Minister of State for Europe.

Meetings of the Franco-German Council of Ministers bring together the President and Prime Minister of the French Republic, the German Federal Chancellor, and all or some French and German Ministers during a joint session once or twice a year. They are a genuine forum for political decision in the joint action of the two governments, and seek to bring about concrete, operational cooperation initiatives. Since 2003, they have brought about real progress, in the areas of convergence on European subjects (energy and climate, research and innovation, migrations, etc.) or bilateral initiatives with real impact for individual citizens and aimed at bringing together civil societies (TGV-ICE high-speed train joint operations, cross-border health services, fight against traffic offences, common history textbooks, drawing up of a common matrimonial regime for binational couples, etc.). The latest meeting took place in Berlin on 31 March 2015.

A new dimension for cross-border and decentralized cooperation

The network of contacts between stakeholders including local government bodies, associations end schools in our two countries is unparalleled. Almost 2500 twinning programmes of all sizes give these ties a unique quality. They are strengthened, in the area of schools, by relations between German regional authorities (“Länder”) and French local education authorities (“rectorats”) under the “Poitiers Process” and, in the area of civil society, through a great number of “Franco-German associations” which promote friendship between their members in the two countries. Moreover, a number of regional bodies and intergovernmental commissions maintain constant cross-border cooperation, including the Rhine Council, the Upper Rhine Conference, the intergovernmental Moselle Commission, and the standing committee on Rhine development.

France and Germany maintain dynamic cross-border cooperation. Spurred on by the declaration of the 15ᵗʰ Franco-German Council of Ministers, on the occasion of the 50ᵗʰ anniversary of the Élysée Treaty (22 January 2013), and the Sarrebrücken declaration on French-German cooperation in cross-border regions (15 July 2013), several initiatives have been implemented. As regards the employment aspect, cooperation between the French Pôle emploi and German Agentur für Arbeit job centres is growing, while cross-border recruitment agencies are achieving positive results. In the area of vocational training, three framework agreements on cross-border apprenticeship have been signed since summer 2013 (in the Upper Rhine, between Lorraine and the Sarre and in the Great Region covering territories in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg). They enable young people in apprentice training centres, vocational colleges (French lycées professionels and German Berufsschule) to carry out their practical training in businesses in the neighbouring country. In the higher education sector, the Great Region University and European Campus projects have seen encouraging progress. The Metz Conference on Cross-Border Cooperation, held on 6 and 7 July 2015, helped provide new impetus for this cooperation, particularly supporting jobs, training and mobility in border regions.

Economic and commercial relations

Germany is France’s leading trading partner. In 2014, Germany remained France’s top customer by far (€70.6 billion of exports), ahead of Belgium and Italy, and its leading supplier (€85.1 billion of imports), ahead of China and Belgium.
Germany’s trade dependency on France is relatively limited. In 2014, France did however remain Germany’s largest customer, ahead of the United States, and its third-largest supplier, behind the Netherlands (9.6%) and China (8.7%). Exports to France represented 9% of German exports in 2014, compared to 9.2% in 2013, while the portion of imports from France totalled 7.4% in 2014, compared to 7.2% the previous year.

More than 90% of bilateral trade between the two countries is made up of similar manufactured products, which are often exchanged in similar proportions. A large proportion of this bilateral trade is dominated by aerospace equipment and, to a much lesser extent, automobile products.

France’s trade deficit with Germany, its leading trading partner, fell by 11% in 2014 compared to 2013. At €14.4 billion, it is only slightly higher than that of 2006 (€14.3 billion). This improvement draws on a slight rise in exports (+€0.2 billion), particularly in mechanical equipment, electrical, electronic and computer equipment and aeronautics products, and on a clearer fall in imports (-€1.6 billion). Those imports mainly included gas and mechanical equipment, electrical, electronic and computer equipment, which fell.

Stocks of foreign direct investment (IDE) which were for a long time balanced, have recently diverged. The stock of German foreign direct investment in France, which totalled €59.1 billion in 2012, has now reached €61,9 billion. Conversely, the stock of French foreign direct investment in Germany, which totalled €59.6 billion in 2012, has now fallen to €54,8 billion.

The French and German economies remain extremely intertwined and complementary. 1197 French companies are present in Germany, employing 268,000 people and generating turnover of €142.5 billion. In return, 2,203 German companies are present in France, employing 310,000 people and generating turnover of €148.3 billion.

There are many examples of industrial cooperation between French and German companies. Such cooperation is particularly dynamic in the automobile, rail, aeronautics and IT sectors, and is developing fast in the energy sector. While they are generally in competition, large French and German companies seek partnerships between one another to enhance their competitiveness and their presence in certain markets, where a critical mass is required.

In 1992, the business leaders Edzard Reuter (Daimler-Benz), Antoine Riboud (Danone), Marcus Bierich (Bosch), as well as Jean François-Poncet, took the initiative to create the Franco-German Meeting in Évian. The aim of this annual meeting is to extend Franco-German cooperation to businesses and establish personal relationships between their leaders. The latest meeting was held from 3 to 5 September 2015, in the presence of the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, and the Minister of State for European Affairs, Harlem Désir, as well as the latter’s German counterpart, Michael Roth, and Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Franco-German relations are particularly intense in the area of cultural and scientific cooperation, and joint initiatives in this area have grown exponentially since 1945. The strength of the ties between French and German civil society is more necessary than ever for the vitality of the bilateral relationship.

Numerous binational bodies carry out actions in order to establish relays between the governments and civil societies of the two countries. The most emblematic institutions include:

- OFAJ/DFJW, the Franco-German Youth Office, which was created in 1963 in the framework of the Élysée Treaty and promotes activities and exchanges in all areas related to young people. Since 1963, the Franco-German Youth Office has enabled 8 million young people to meet and almost 200,000 of them participate in its programmes every year. It also offers trilateral exchanges, particularly with Central and Eastern European countries and South-East European countries, in order to strengthen European cooperation;

- the Franco-German University (FGU), which was created in September 1997 during the Franco-German Weimar summit. It is made up of a network of French and German higher education establishments that offer integrated curriculums from Bachelor’s to Doctorate studies, which lead to binational diplomas. 6300 students are enrolled on integrated curriculums funded by the FGU. Every year, the FGU organizes the Franco-German Forum, an opportunity for students and recent graduates to meet French and German businesses and institutions;

- ARTE, the Association for European Television, is a Franco-German public-service cultural television channel with a European audience, and was created in the late 1980s. Since 2001, the channel has broadcast a nightly Franco-German news programme;

- the Marc Bloch Centre, created in December 1992, is a Franco-German centre for research in the social sciences which works from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It dedicates part of its work to organizing colloquiums and training researchers;

- the Franco-German Fund for third countries was established in 2003, and funds joint initiatives of the French and German cultural networks abroad;

- the Franco-German Cultural Council (HCCFA/DFKR), which was created in 1988, is responsible for “informing the decisions of our governments on major bilateral and European issues regarding culture”;

- the Franco-German Secretariat for Vocational Training Exchanges (SFA/DFS), created by the intergovernmental Convention of 5 February 1980, enables French and German pupils and apprentices to carry out part of their training in the partner country. It is headquartered in Saarbrücken.

The French cultural, school, scientific and technical cooperation network in Germany is dense and diverse:

• 1 French Institute of Germany, with 11 satellites in addition to Berlin;
• 5 specialized offices in Berlin (books, cinema, theatre and dance, music and fine art);
• 11 binational structures (Franco-German cultural centres and satellites);
• 1 historical research centre (French Institute of History in Germany, in Frankfurt);
• 1 science and technology service, situated in Berlin;
• 1 French Research Institute Abroad (IFRE);
• 18 establishments in the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) network (Lycée and collège (high school) in Berlin, school in Bonn, lycée in Düsseldorf, lycée in Frankfurt, school and lycée in Freiburg, school in Heidelberg, lycée in Hamburg, school, collège and lycée in Munich, school in Saarbrücken, pre-school and primary school in Stuttgart), and two Franco-German lycées, in addition to the Buc lycée in France (Freiburg and Saarbrücken).

This network is also supplemented with numerous bilateral initiatives. One example is the creation of a “Franco-German Day” (22 January) in the schools of the two countries, the publication of Franco-German history textbooks for students completing their high school studies in France and Germany, and the strategy to support the teaching of the partner’s language.

This cooperation is also embodied by diplomatic and consular co-location projects such as the launch in 2013 of the work to build a Franco-German embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well as the development of cultural co-locations (French cultural centres or Alliances françaises, and German cultural associations or Goethe Institutes), as well as the creation of Franco-German schools (Franco-German lycées and Franco-German Eurocampuses abroad).



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