A panel discussion marking the fiftieth anniversary of the post-war French-German reconciliation by the signing of the Élysée Treaty on January 22nd, 1963. Speakers: Dr. Bernd Fischer, Consul General of Germany, and Mr. Axel Cruau, Consul General of France. Moderator: Ivan Berend, UCLA History.
In its press release for the Nobel Peace Prize 2012, awarded to the European Union, the Nobel Committee has pointed out: “Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today, war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners.” Thus, the French-German partnership is not only a bilateral affair, but is also at the core of the vision of securing peace for the entire continent.
On January 22nd, 1963, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and General Charles de Gaulle signed the Treaty for Franco-German Cooperation, which was to become known as the “ÉlyséeTreaty.” The agreement sealed Franco-German reconciliation and formed the bedrock for the Franco-German partnership after World War II.
The two countries were already founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, along with four other European countries. Today, France and Germany are among the most enthusiastic proponents of the further integration of the European Union. They are sometimes described as the "twin engines" or "core countries" pushing for moves.
But with the ÉlyséeTreaty began another process in history: reconciliation driven by the nations' people. The leaders of the two countries were convinced that they could not be brought together by politics and treaties between the two nations alone. The process had to become an integral part of people's day-to-day existence. As such, the leaders decided to focus their attention on the countries' young people. The Élysée Treaty launched Franco-German high schools. It also paved the way for the creation of the Franco-German Youth Office. The organisation offers young people the chance to visit the partner country every year. Today, 61,000 young people take part in Franco-German school exchange programmes and 6,000 students take courses in the partner country every year (Source: Goethe Institute, 2011 data). Around 80,000 pupils are enrolled in bilingual French-German classes. If 22% of French school pupils currently study German, more than half of young Germans state that they know at least a little French. The Franco-German University, created in 1999 and made up of a network of affiliated French and German universities, offers 130 integrated courses in France and Germany.
Many French and German towns, schools and regions have established twinning agreements since the treaty was signed, leading to numerous economic, touristic, school and extra-curricular exchanges. The Franco-German television channel, Arte, created in 1991, fits squarely within this drive to promote the coming together of the two countries and cultural exchange.
Last but not least, Germany is today France's leading economic partner. 320,000 people are employed in German companies in France and 285,000 people are employed in French companies in Germany (source: Franco-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2011 data).
The anniversary of the signing of the ÉlyséeTreaty is set to be celebrated in the German capital with joint political events, particularly a Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting, and a joint parliamentary session. A concert will be held at the Berlin Konzerthaus, and the Franco-German Youth Office will organise a “youth parliament” session.
Published: Friday, February 01, 2013
© 2014. The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.