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Franco-German Treaty: a friendship pact for leaders in distress

If the "Franco-German couple" is regularly suspected of pouring more into the display than in the development of concrete policies, it is not the signing of the new treaty of the Elysee, this Tuesday in Aachen which will silence the bad languages.

This text was however eagerly awaited since Emmanuel Macron's speech on Europe in September 2017 at the Sorbonne. At the time, the French president pleaded emphatically to "A decisive and concrete Franco-German impulse", and proposed to sign a new treaty on 22 January 2018. The Head of State then resumed little or nothing of the ideas already stated by the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the essayist Alain Minc in a tribune in 2016, where they called for an enlargement of the text, signed in 1963 by Adenauer and de Gaulle. In a post-Brexit context of "rise of populism ", of "Nationalist resurgences" and of "Return of selfishness", the latter then pleaded for a "Elysée 2.0".

Thus, at the time of his speech at the Sorbonne, Macron wanted the text to be ratified at its 55e anniversary, January 22, 2018. But the Elyos demands met with the convulsions of German domestic policy: in January 2018, Berlin was paralyzed by the sluggish establishment of a new coalition government, and therefore unlikely to follow suit not. More than a year later, this text was finally ratified by Macron and Merkel in Aachen, the former capital of the Carolingian Empire.

Peaked helmet

If, usually, the Franco-German treaties trigger quite a few reactions on both sides of the Rhine, this text draws more attention. Since a few days circulate in France several intox, fed by the extreme right French. The text is accused of pushing France to share its seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council with its neighbor across the Rhine, and even "to sell" Alsace and Lorraine to the Germans – evidence of Germanophobic hints in France. These last rantings managed to cringe the very austere Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In its Monday edition, the daily newspaper in Frankfurt puts the image of a Prussian army helmet at the front, accompanied by this sarcastic commentary: "Who would've believed that ?"

In addition, just to add to the confusion, many German MPs have misunderstood the date of the signing of the text by the government: they had indeed planned the same day to discuss with their French counterparts. a new parliamentary agreement. The head of the Green Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag spoke of a "affront", while one of his FDP colleagues (Liberals) was talking about a "Hostile act".

But beyond the conspiracy fantasies and various sensibilities, what does the text say? The two countries are preparing to adopt "A mutual defense clause that recognizes that aggression, a threat to one of the two countries will be seen as an aggression, a threat by the other country that will do everything possible to help his partner". "Very concretely, this can happen in the case of a terrorist attack where it is necessary to deploy a certain number of means of assistance, research, common information to help the other country", says it to the Elysee. But this "solidarity clause" is not new. It is inspired by what already exists in the NATO and EU treaties. The text also ensures that France supports Germany to obtain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This is even a "Priority of Franco-German diplomacy". But the subject was already on the agenda of the "Agenda 2020", a roadmap drawn up at the twelfth Franco-German Council of Ministers in 2010.

"Missed opportunity"

In addition, there are many cleavages between France and Germany, on topics as varied as the taxation of digital giants, the exit of nuclear power or the policy on arms exports. Stakes that the treaty does not say much about. "Many questions are not mentioned in the text. It's really a missed opportunity, especially just a few months away from the European elections, commented Jens Althoff, director of the French branch of the Heinrich Böll Foundation – affiliated to the German Greens. For example, the challenge of ecological transformation is barely addressed, and without a common project. This is also the case for immigration and integration policy, while the idea is, in the end, to lead to a common European policy. "

The text provides for some initiatives, such as a Franco-German Council of economic experts (purely consultative) composed of ten independent experts, or the creation of a common digital platform on which several media – France Televisions, ARD, Arte – have already "Started thinking," indicates the Elysee.

In general, the two signatory leaders are weakened. Weakened by the crisis of yellow vests, the head of state seems to have for the moment relegated to the background his European ambitions. The Chancellor, she became over the months a "lame duck", leading at the end of reign in a country in political crisis. Against the backdrop of the Brexit uncertainties, the rise of populism in Europe and the incessant turbulence of the Trump Presidency.

Johanna Luyssen correspondent in Berlin

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