Treaty of Aachen: Strengthening the Franco-German friendship is good for Europe – but we want more!

, by Europa Union Deutschland, Junge Europäische Föderalisten - Deutschland, Les Jeunes Européens - France, UEF-France

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Treaty of Aachen: Strengthening the Franco-German friendship is good for Europe – but we want more!
Graphic by JEF-France.

Joint statement of JEF-France, UEF France, JEF-Germany and Europa-Union Germany on the occasion of the signing of the Aachen Treaty.

As European federalists we believe in Europe, although unfortunately we had to brood over it too often lately. In times of Brexit and populism, some might have feared that the Franco-German partnership would slacken. Yet on 22 January 2018, France and Germany signed the Aachen Treaty, and that gives us hope. It not only strengthens the bilateral friendship between two former adversaries but also has the potential to be the new stepping stone for a more integrated Europe.

France and Germany signed the treaty as a sort of Élysée Treaty 2.0, but we would have wanted that the rest of Europe gets involved in such developments, too. In 1963, the reconciliation of France and Germany was one of the most important European themes; today, however, we have to adopt a wider perspective for the entire European Union. One thing has to be stressed nonetheless: this treaty is a positive step in the right direction!

European integration can work only when it involves citizens. In 1963, the Élysée Treaty established that peace between France and Germany can only be achieved through exchange among the people of these countries. Over the course of several decades, millions of German and French people visited each other’s countries and built a permanent bond, which was to be the cornerstone of European integration.

The new treaty recognises the necessity of mutual understanding between citizens and develops it further. For this reason, we welcome the continued cooperation in the field of education as well as the military, diplomacy and the police. The development of common administrative structures is necessary and appreciated, as are the many initiatives in the border regions. We welcome stronger cooperation in foreign policy as well, although we generally believe that the EU should be responsible for this area and that focus should have been laid on joint lobbying for a European seat in the UN Security Council. But all in all, the number of initiatives deserves praise and we are looking forward to witnessing their practical implementation.

We recognise and welcome the change of perspective from bilateral cooperation to an institutionalised and strengthened Franco-German approach on European issues. In this sense, the Aachen Treaty really is an Elysée Treaty 2.0. The French and German governments have made it clear that they are aware of their own role in the European project and of the urgency of its further development. The ambitions could have been higher, however – especially in the light the mere strength of this bilateral friendship and the sheer complexity of the European challenges we are facing. This treaty has the potential to be the next step towards a European federal state and an ever-closer Union.

Some things may be missing, especially the involvement of the rest of Europe. But in order for European integration to succeed, there is need for a functioning Franco-German partnership. However, this relationship does have to boost the efforts for a more closely united Europe, in turn. France and Germany are moving in the right direction, and the rest of Europe should follow suit.

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