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Political relations

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Germany - Visit to Berlin by Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs (April 10, 2014)

The new minister of state for European affairs, Harlem Désir, visited Berlin today. Mr. Désir met his German counterpart, Michael Roth, with whom he will jointly serve as secretary-general for French-German cooperation.

Political relations

At the end of the Second World War, Franco-German reconciliation, which seems to everyone to be the condition for peace in Europe, seems uncertain: France’s policy aims to prevent Germany’s recovery, and anti-French sentiment is very strong in Germany, in particular in the French occupation zone. However, by 1945, initiatives are taken that aim to bring the two countries together and decentralized cooperation plays a key role in this at the time, through intercommunity twinnings, for example, even if they affect only a limited number of people. Several dates thereafter constitute major steps in Franco-German reconciliation and cooperation. In response to a declaration made in March 1950 by Chancellor Adenauer, inviting the two countries to come together, Robert Schuman’s declaration of 10 May 1950 introduced the concept of a “Europe attained by small steps”, leading to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. Reconciliation is complete and political and cultural relations between the two countries have since been constantly intensifying. The Treaties of Rome on the European Communities, signed in 1957, symbolize Franco-German reconciliation and cooperation as a condition and driving force behind European construction.

Signed on 22 January 1963 by Chancellor Adenauer and General de Gaulle, the Treaty on Franco-German Cooperation (known as the Elysée Treaty) has become the emblem of the intense relations between France and Germany. It meets three objectives, introduced in the brief Joint Declaration that accompanies the Treaty: to symbolically establish Franco-German reconciliation, to create a genuine friendship between the two countries and thereby promote the “construction of a united Europe, which is the goal of the two peoples”. The Treaty establishes a binding calendar of regular meetings at all levels (heads of state and government, ministers, senior civil servants), intended to create a reflex of cooperation between the two countries.

These provisions were later clarified and extended by the establishment of new structures of cooperation. Accordingly, in 1988-1989, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Treaty, the Franco-German Defence and Security Council was created at the same time as the Franco-German Brigade, the Franco-German Economic and Financial Council (CEFFA) and the Franco-German Environmental Council (CFAE) and the Franco-German High Council of Culture (HCCFA) were created.

From a political standpoint, the Treaty was able to play its role cementing bilateral ties by ensuring that permanent, intense relations were maintained. It acted as a catalyst for Franco-German initiatives, which have been at the origin of every major advance in European construction: the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty, the Euro, the Schengen area, and the construction of a European Security and Defence Policy.

France and Germany’s close institutional and political association was reinforced on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, celebrated on 22 January 2003. In view of the challenges facing Europe today, this system enables France and Germany to be better coordinated for a Union that is now enlarged, while attempting to encourage contact between the two countries’ civil societies.

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated in Paris on 9 November 2009. On this occasion, a major popular event was organized at the Place de la Concorde, as proof of France’s friendship and solidarity with the German people.

Reinforced intergovernmental cooperation structures

Setting the Franco-German relationship back into a European perspective, the declaration of the 40th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty calls for several measures that strengthen bilateral cooperation procedures: Franco-German summits in the form of Franco-German Councils of Ministers (CMFA) are held; a General Secretary for Franco-German cooperation (SGFA) is appointed in each country, tasked with coordinating the preparation and monitoring of the decisions of political cooperation bodies as well as Franco-German rapprochement in European bodies. These positions are currently held by Mr.Laurent Wauquiez, Minister with the Minister of State, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, responsible for European Affairs, for France, and by Mr.Werner Hoyer, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs, for Germany.

The CMFAs are a strong symbol of the cooperation between the two countries, and bring together the French President, Prime Minister, Federal Chancellor and all or some French and German ministers during a joint session twice a year. A genuine political decision-making forum for the two countries’ joint actions, the CMFAs aim to promote a rapprochement of the two governments’ decision-making processes and to create concrete, operational initiatives. Since 2003, they have allowed for real progress to be made, be it convergence on European issues (energy and climate, research and innovation, migration, etc.) or bilateral initiatives that affect citizens’ lives directly and aim to bring the civil societies together (TGV-ICE linkage, cross-border health services, fight against traffic violations, manual of common history, signing of a shared matrimonial regime, etc.). Thirteen meetings have been held in this format since January 2003. The most recent one was held in Freiburg im Breisgau on 10 December 2010 and the next one will probably taken place in autumn 2011, in France.

During their first meeting on 16 May 2007, the French President and the Chancellor reiterated the importance of this specific step in coordination and decided together to give the CMFAs a more dynamic and operational format (organization around a topic giving rise to specific cooperation projects and an open and informal discussion in a plenary session). The first CMFA held in this revamped context was held in June 2008. Devoted to the topic of energy and climate, it made it possible to promote Franco-German convergence a few weeks before the start of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union on a priority subject. The following two CMFAs (Paris, on 24 November 2008, and Berlin, on 12 March 2009) made it possible to confirm the efficacy of the new revamped format and highlight the responsiveness of France and Germany to the economic and financial crisis. The CMFA of 4 February 2010, which met in plenary format, made it possible to adopt a “Franco-Germany Agenda” for 2020. This document sets specific objectives and concrete measures for Franco-German cooperation making it possible to meet the challenges Europe is facing. It is based on six points: economy, finance and employment; energy, climate; growth, innovation, research, education and higher education; foreign policy, defence and security; rapprochement of civil societies; institutional framework. In particular, it calls for a cross-border pilot project for electric vehicles between Strasbourg and Stuttgart, the creation of a French-German office on renewable energies, the creation of a joint satellite that will measure the amount of methane in the atmosphere, or else doubling the number of students at the Franco-German University and increasing the number of academic exchanges. The last CMFA of 10 December 2010 met in a limited format. It was devoted primarily to continuing the common action to ensure the stability and strength of the euro zone, as well as Franco-German cooperation in the framework of the dual French presidency of the G8/G20.

Informal meetings, bringing together the French President and the Federal Chancellor, take place regularly. They are a special forum for discussing European and international issues, harmonizing the two partners’ positions and giving considerable impetus, while strengthening the leaders’ personal ties. In addition, the French President and Chancellor often meet informally alongside European and international meetings.

A new dimension of cross-border and decentralized cooperation

The network of contacts between local communities, associations, and schools, etc. of our two countries is unequalled. North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populated Land, emphasized its partnership with France by organizing a cultural season in France in 2008-2009 and giving our country the role of guest of honour for the European cultural season, “Ruhr 2010”. Educational exchanges have also been integrated into the season’s programming. There are 17 highly active partnerships at regional level.

On 17 October 2005, a first convention on the Strasbourg-Ortenau Eurodistrict was signed, which, by enabling increased cross-border cooperation, is intended to constitute a genuine European metropolis of more than one million inhabitants in the long run. In February 2010, the Strasbourg-Ortenau Eurodistrict became a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC). This transformation of the Eurodistrict’s legal status should offer new cross-border cooperation development prospects. On 6 May 2010, the Secretary of State responsible for European Affairs participated in the inaugural ceremony of the European grouping of territorial cooperation “Saar Moselle” which brings together a series of border towns, including Sarrebrücken, Sarreguemines and Forbach.

Moreover, the Franco-German Agenda 2020 also stresses the role of cross-border cooperation, specifically by supporting the creation of the Metropolitan Region of the Upper Rhine, which took place last 9 December in Offenburg (Germany).

Updated on 27.05.11

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