2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty. Signed on 22 January 1963 by France and the Federal Republic of Germany after several decades of rivalries and conflicts, it symbolizes the reconciliation between the two nations and lays the foundations for close bilateral cooperation to support European integration.
What is the content of this treaty and what are the concrete benefits for the two countries and for French-German friendship?
The Élysée Treaty, which was signed 18 years after World War II, is the result of a connection between two men, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle. Both men opposed the Nazi regime and wanted to extend their friendship to their past enemy. Through the signing of this treaty, they decided to establish a new relationship to seal a lasting friendship.
General de Gaulle and Federal Chancellor Adenauer wanted to sign a treaty rather than a simple declaration. They wanted to indicate a lasting commitment between their two countries that went beyond any future political changes and to make their cooperation official and systematic.
The signatories considered it important that the Treaty not simply be a document between Heads of State but that it involve citizens so they could learn to get to know one another, speak to one another and appreciate one another. One of the successful outcomes of this Treaty was that it brought the two peoples much closer together. This friendship can be seen in the signature of more than 2,300 twinning programmes and a raft of civil society initiatives.
To strengthen ties between young people in our two countries, the Treaty created the French-German Youth Office (OFAJ or Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk or DFJW in German), which aims to facilitate exchanges and reciprocal language learning. Since 1963, some 9 million young German and French people have participated in 320,000 exchange programmes through the OFAJ.
Politically, the Treaty provides for meetings at least twice a year for Heads of State and Government and three times a year for foreign ministers, in addition to meetings focusing on defence, education and youth. Since the Treaty was signed, the leaders of the two countries have met regularly and pursued discussions regardless of what is happening politically on either side of the Rhine River.
The “Kultur Ensemble” project, a result of the Aachen Treaty signed in 2019 by the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, plans to set up eight Franco-German cultural institutes, based on the ICFA Ramallah model:
- in Palermo (Italy),
- in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil),
- in Córdoba (Argentina),
- in Erbil (Iraq),
- in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan),
- in Atlanta (United States),
- in Glasgow (Scotland)
- in Minsk (Belarus).
The first such institute was opened in Palermo, Sicily, in June 2021, where it welcomes artists in residence. In Bishkek, a shared cultural office was set up in November 2021 and in Erbil, Franco-German cultural activities on the site of the citadel, a UNESCO-listed historical monument, are planned for 2023.
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. They thus enable larger-scale external action to be carried out, with a significant impact on local populations.
Updated: January 2023