France and Germany

Bilateral relations build on enhanced intergovernmental cooperation structures

Following the first phases of the France-Germany reconciliation – the Schuman Declaration in 1950, the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957 – the Élysée Treaty on French-German cooperation was signed on 22 January 1963 by Federal Chancellor Adenauer and General de Gaulle and became the symbol of relations between France and Germany. It addresses three goals: 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. Cementing constant, intense relations, it has served as a framework for the dialogue that brought about every major step forward in European integration (Single European Act, etc.).

At the 25ᵗʰ anniversary of the Treaty, the existing arrangements were clarified and extended through the creation of further cooperation forums: 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).

Political and institutional cooperation between the two countries was strengthened at the 40ᵗʰ anniversary of the Élysée Treaty on 22 January 2003, through the designation in each country of a Secretary-General for Franco-German cooperation and the creation of Franco-German Council of Ministers (CMFA/DFMR) meetings held at least once annually. These meetings have enabled real progress on European subjects including energy and climate, research and innovation, and migration, as well as on bilateral initiatives of tangible benefit for citizens such as joint high-speed rail services, cross-border health services, common history textbooks, marital regime for binational couples, cooperation of employment agencies. The latest bilateral Council of Ministers meeting, held in Metz on 7 April 2016, mostly focused on counter-terrorism, migration policy, defence, investment, energy, digital technology and social integration (handover to the two leaders of a report on integration to strengthen cooperation on these issues).

A new dimension for cross-border and decentralized cooperation

The French-German relationship is marked by particularly intense cross-border cooperation. Close to 2,500 twinning programmes enable contacts of unique quality between local government bodies, associations and schools, for example. These are supported by cooperation between French and German local education authorities, a number of private French-German associations, and several regional bodies, including the Rhine Council, the Upper Rhine Conference and the intergovernmental Moselle Commission.

The Sarrebrücken Declaration of 15 July 2013, backed up by the Metz Conference of 6-7 July 2015 and regular French-German dialogue on cross-border cooperation, provides a general framework that has enabled progress in vocational training (framework agreements on cross-border apprenticeships in the Upper Rhine, Lorraine-Saarland and the Great Region covering territories in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg), employment (cooperation between the German Federal Employment Agency and French Pôle Emploi), and higher education (European Campus).

Economic and trade relations

Germany is France’s main trading partner. It is its leading customer (€71.3 billion of exports), ahead of Belgium and Italy, and its leading supplier (€86.5 billion of imports), ahead of China and Belgium. France’s trade gap with Germany grew slightly in 2015 compared to 2014, partly because of a fall in aerospace exports combined with increased imports in the same sector. Germany’s trade dependency on France is relatively limited. In 2015, France fell into second place amongst Germany’s trading partners (€170 billion of trade), just behind the United States (€173 billion). France is Germany’s third-largest supplier (7.1% share), behind China (9.7%) and the Netherlands (9.3%) and its second-largest customer (8.5% share), just behind the United States (9.1%, with €10 billion more imports than France). The significant growth in the volume of trade between Germany and the United States is explained by both exchange rates (weak euro compared to the dollar) and by strong American growth in 2015 (which increased demand, particularly in the equipment sector).

The French and German economies are extremely intertwined and complementary. 2,816 French companies are present in Germany (30% of those present abroad in the eurozone) and employ 352,000 people. According to French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), they generate turnover of €137 billion (particularly in manufacturing). Meanwhile, 3,200 German companies are present in France, employing 310,000 people and generating turnover of €141 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 Former Foreign Minister 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.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

French-German cultural and scientific cooperation is particularly strong, drawing on a dense network of institutions including:
• OFAJ/DFJW, the Franco-German Youth Office, which was created in 1963 in the framework of the Élysée Treaty and offers activities and exchanges in all areas related to young people and programmes in which 200,000 of them take part each year;
• the Franco-German University (FGU), which was created in 1997 and is made up of a network of French and German higher education establishments that offer integrated programmes leading to binational diplomas (6,300 students);
• the Marc Bloch Centre, which was created in December 1992, and is a Franco-German centre for research in the social sciences;
• the Genshagen Foundation, which provides a platform for discussions between French, German and European stakeholders in politics, economics, science and culture;
• ARTE, a French-German cultural television channel with a European focus;
• the Franco-German Cultural Council (HCCFA/DFKR), which was created in 1988, is responsible for informing the decisions of the French and German governments on major bilateral and European issues regarding culture;
• the Franco-German Secretariat for Vocational Training Exchanges (SFA/DFS), which was created in 1980.
Lastly, the Franco-German Fund for third countries was established in 2003, and funds joint cultural cooperation initiatives of the French and German diplomatic and cultural networks abroad;
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);
• 15 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 Freiburg and Sarrbrücken, in addition to one in France, situated in Buc.
A number of bilateral initiatives supplement these networks, including 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 construction of a Franco-German embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, since 2013), as well as the development of cultural co-locations (French cultural centres or Alliances françaises with German cultural associations or Goethe Institutes), as well as the creation of Franco-German schools (Franco-German lycées and Franco-German Eurocampuses abroad).

Updated: 4 January 2017