The creation of Franco-German cultural institutes is a priority under the Treaty of Aachen, strengthening cultural cooperation between France and Germany. A first integrated cultural institute was inaugurated in Palermo, Sicily, in 2021, and 9 more will be created, joining France’s cooperation and cultural action network. The next to be opened will be in Iraqi Kurdistan, and should come to fruition in 2021 in Erbil’s Citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site. These innovative Franco-German cultural institutes strengthen the friendship between the two countries and offer new horizons.
The relationship of cooperation between France and Germany was institutionalized in the Élysée Treaty of 1963, and strengthened by the Treaty of Aachen. The latter, signed on 22 January 2019, confirmed the political will of the two countries to expand their cooperation and foster closer relations between their civil societies.
When it comes to the cultural dimension, Franco-German cultural institutes are one of the Treaty of Aachen’s flagship projects, involving:
- The creation of four integrated Franco-German cultural institutes in Palermo (Italy), Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan);
- Installation of five co-locations of French and German cultural institutes in Ramallah (Palestinian Territories), Córdoba (Argentina), Atlanta (United States), Glasgow (United Kingdom) and Minsk (Belarus).
These 9 projects draw on the actors of both countries’ cultural networks: France’s Institut Français and Alliance Française branches, and Germany’s Goethe-Institut branches and centres.
The model of Franco-German co-locations is based on sharing premises (such as between an Alliance Française branch and a Goethe-Institut branch, as is planned in Córdoba, while integrated institutes are aimed at even closer relations between the partner structures.
Franco-German cultural institutes can draw on the Franco German Cultural Fund created to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty on 22 January 2003. The Fund, financed equally by the two partners, encourages and supports cultural cooperation initiatives run jointly by their respective diplomatic and cultural networks abroad.
Whatever their format, Franco-German cultural institutes offer cultural activities run jointly between French and German partners on a single site, developing a shared communication strategy.
These cultural institutes offer a wide range of activities. Each one is adapted to the local context, with language classes, libraries, film clubs, debates, artists’ residencies, concerts and exhibitions. In Ramallah, for example, the institute will innovate, hosting a fab lab.
As sources of influence for both countries, Franco-German cultural institutes amplify the countries’ cooperation abroad and help spread their shared democratic and humanist values. By fostering synergies and pooling French and German resources, Franco-German cultural institutes help expand external action, with considerable impact for local populations.
Palermo, the first Franco-German cultural institute
The first Franco-German cultural institute was inaugurated in Palermo on 14 June 2021 in the presence of Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, France’s Minister Delegate for Tourism, French Nationals Abroad and Francophonie, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office, Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo.
Supported by the Palermo outpost of the Italian Institut Français and the Palermo Goethe-Institut branch, this joint cultural institute is situated in the Bottega, at the heart of former industrial zone known as the Cantieri Alla Zisa. It takes the form of a residency for production and creation called “L’Atelier Panormos”, which has hosted artist duos – a German artist and a French artist – since September 2021.
It is also the starting point of the New Grand Tour, which already includes 9 Italian residencies. This network provides around 30 young French and German artists with the opportunities to spend time in partner residencies in Italy.
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Above and beyond cultural cooperation, there is longstanding institutional cooperation between the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the German Federal Foreign Office. This cooperation brings together certain diplomatic and consular facilities and helps pool resources abroad.
Diplomatic and consular premises have been pooled since the Framework Agreement on Co-location of Diplomatic Missions and Consular Posts signed during the Franco-German Council of Ministers on 12 October 2006. This is the case, for example, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where the French and German embassies share a site.