France & Germany to mark 50 years since Elysee Treaty
| Frank Zeller |
Berlin (dpa) – This week France and Germany mark 50 years since they signed the Elysee Treaty, the post-war friendship pact that binds the odd couple at the heart of Europe.
Berlin and Paris will celebrate their efforts to forge the core of a borderless Europe with the aim of never repeating the horrors of World War II and the conflicts of centuries past.
On Tuesday, the French tricolore, Germany’s black-red-and-gold flag and the EU’s golden stars will fly in Berlin as leaders, parliamentarians and youths mark the diplomatic milestone.
Speeches by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, a joint cabinet meeting, lavish dinners and a concert will mark January 22, 1963 – the day Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer signed the treaty in the Elysee Palace.
Extra chairs are being fitted beneath the glass dome of Berlin’s Reichstag, which houses the legislature, for the first ever visit by the 577 deputies of the French National Assembly.
The neighbours will point to successes – such as their more than eight million student exchanges so far, and the 2,200 towns and cities that are involved in partnerships across the Rhine River.
But beneath the pomp and ceremony, some critics see the ossified rituals of an estranged couple who, faced with the challenges of a globalised world, have increasingly pursued their own interests.
Le Monde newspaper has dubbed it a “festival of hypocrisy”.
The grand ceremony comes as economic troubles have highlighted stark differences between Germany, Europe’s economic engine, and France, increasingly its diplomatic spearhead.
While Franco-German relations tend to be civilised, little love has been lost at a personal level between Merkel, a conservative, and Hollande, a socialist.
Their cool ties are often contrasted with the pragmatic “Mercozy” duo formed by Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, or the friendships between Helmut Schmidt and Valery Giscard d’Estaing and between Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl.
Merkel, who supported Sarkozy in French elections, was upset when Hollande backed her domestic opponents, the Social Democrats.
The two have also differed sharply on whether Europe’s debt woes are best fixed with German-style austerity and restructuring or costlier and less painful pro-growth measures favoured by Hollande.
“The Franco-German relationship is not a love affair,” says political scientist Alfred Grosser, who was born in Germany and lives in France.
“Merkel backed Sarkozy in his election campaign. She shouldn’t have done that. Hollande on the other hand approached the chancellor and visited her immediately after his election.”
He added that their relationship may need time to blossom, pointing out that ex-chancellor “Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac also didn’t immediately warm to each other, and neither did Sarkozy and Merkel.”