A Blueprint for Friendship
France and Germany ended their enmity by signing the Treaty of Friendship in 1963. Can India and Pakistan follow a similar route?
India and Pakistan can coexist peacefully by following the Franco-German treaty of friendship.
It is 50 years since the Elysee Treaty was signed between Germany and France – the two European nations that had been bitter enemies for centuries and fought two World Wars in the first half of the 20th century. Commonly known as the Treaty of Friendship, this agreement provided a sound basis for what turned out to be a lasting relationship of trust and understanding between the two former enemies. Significant policy decisions were enforced and organisations/institutions set up that transformed political alliances into practical benefits for both nations. The fiftieth anniversary of this landmark treaty provides an opportunity to reflect on the impact it has made and to perhaps consider it as a model worth emulating by other countries struggling to maintain bilateral ties as well.
The Elysee Treaty was signed on January 22, 1963 in Berlin by French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer to put an end to differences between the two nations; differences that led them to wage three wars against each other over the course of a century. Hostility between the two nations started as early as the 16th century, largely based on pre-Roman cultural differences. Tensions continued to escalate, resulting in the Franco-Prussian War in the 19th century. Both countries remained fiercely opposed to each other all through the First and Second World Wars. It was after the Second World War (1939-1945) that both parties worked on rapprochement and declared an end to their rivalry. Eighteen years after the war came to a close, the Elysee Treaty was finally signed, following a period of FrancoGerman cooperation (initiated in the 50s). The agreement has been so successful that the two countries remain closer than ever despite all the daily political wrangling.
The treaty is unique because of a few distinctive features that also make it a success: it is a public commitment to reconciliation that can be called upon in times of friction between the two countries; it emphasises the importance of civil society and the role it can play in the strengthening of ties; it institutionalised relations in several important areas, inculcated a culture of cooperation and developed personal ties that transcended bureaucratic and policy decisions; and it laid the groundwork for future German and French premiers who continued to use this treaty as a model for strong bilateral relations.
Barring a few hiccups here and there, the Elysee Treaty has been mostly successful in maintaining harmonious relations between France and Germany. Perhaps one of the
most significant results of this pact has been the Franco-German Office for Youth (FGYO). Set up in July 1963, the office is credited with bringing together the youth of the two countries, and promotes understanding, solidarity and collaboration by urging them to participate in various exchange programs. Some of the efforts of this youth office include the promotion of French and German languages, setting up of Franco-German high schools, publishing of a joint history course book that highlights a shared perspective on history and a French-German TV channel called Arte. However, even more important has been the treaty’s historically central role in setting the foundation of the European Union (EU). Notwithstanding political differences that surfaced from time to time, both Germany and France have been committed to propelling EU forward. This has been most obvious in the unanimous support lent to major European projects such as the creation of the euro (thanks to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty). In fact, all EU consolidation in the last 50 years has been a direct result of the Franco-German alliance.
It was in 2003, the year that marked 40 years of the French-German friendship, that EU commissioners Pascal Lamy (from France) and Gunter Verheugen (from Germany) initiated the Lamy-Verheugen Plan that aimed to unite both countries in certain key areas including military and economic alliances, combined embassies and the holding of a joint seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). As a result, Germany and France forged economic ties by setting up two massive industrial units, Areva and Aventis. The former is a French public multinational nuclear power company with its headquarters in Paris. The company is also actively involved in other energy projects and provides solutions for carbonfree energy. Till recently, the German electronics giant Siemens was also a shareholder in the company. Aventis, on the other hand, is the result of a merger between French and German companies, and was later merged with Sanofi, France’s leading pharmaceutical company. The company manufactures medicines for several therapeutic indications.
Also, on the eve of the 40th anniversary, the premiers of both countries decided to set up new forms of coordination every year with the help of the Council of French-German Ministers. This council, created by the then French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, replaced the annual Franco-German Summit instituted by the treaty. Alongside this, Germany and France set up an Elysee Fund to finance cultural projects in other countries, thus providing additional visibility and substance to the FrenchGerman cooperation abroad. In fact, since 2003, several cultural projects in Nigeria have received the patronage of the Elysee Fund. In 2010, at the 12th Council of the Franco-German Ministers, the French-German Agenda 2020 was approved, which details 80 substantive measures for deeper cooperation between the two countries in the day-to-day affairs of the masses. These include a common matrimonial system, French-German civil service, creation of bilingual kindergartens, common medical services in border areas and occupational integration of young people.
Even more interesting is the merg- ing of their armed forces in the EU intergovernmental standing army corps – Eurocorps. While several EU nations have contributed their soldiers, huge French and German contingents, collectively known as the Franco-German brigade, is at the helm of this force. In fact, Eurocorps receives most of its infantry from France while most of the armour is supplied by Germany.
It is clear then that the Elysee Treaty has been a resounding success. Today, there are countless twinned cities and towns in Germany and France and thanks to the efforts of the FrancoGerman Youth Office, hundreds of thousands of young people have discovered their European neighbours. Paris and Berlin remain the driving forces in matters of European policymaking and even though relations have cooled on occasion, the fact is that their close cooperation has never been vulnerable to a falling out. Therefore, it’s not surprising that both countries have great respect for this historic agreement.
The Elysee Treaty has also helped boost economic, industrial and military growth across Europe. It is a model worth replicating since it shows that in spite of all odds, nations can actually rise above their differences, come together and work towards common goals.
French President Charles de Gaulle shaking hands with
German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.