Franco-German friendship: a link traced by history

Franco-German friendship: a link traced by history

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The Elysée Treaty, signed on January 22, 1963 between De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, is the basis of theFranco-German friendship. Whether it is for the signing of cooperation treaties, exchange programs or commemorations, France and Germany have since been without lack of opportunities to renew this promise of peaceful understanding. The "Franco-German couple" has since formed the "backbone" of the European Union. Yet this strong friendship between these two countries was not natural. On the contrary, the road of these two nations in no way foreshadowed peace.

Tensions and Wars: two enemy nations

Since the German unification dated 1870, France and Germany will develop towards each other a ferocious hatred which will lead to human, material and global disasters. Three wars will forever mark the fate of these two nations, 1870, 1914 and 1940. Three times, these nations have wanted to demonstrate their superiority with a hegemonic objective over Europe. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 was lost by France, resulting in the fall of the Second Empire and with it, Emperor Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.

This war greatly contributed to the unification not only territorial but also political and social of Germany. The German company was born. Franco-German rivalries will then intensify in the political field, first of all with the Dreyfus affair, which at the dawn of the 20th century divided France between Dreyfusard and Antidreyfusard. Dreyfus was then considered by some to be a spy for Germany. Then on the ground of colonial questions, the situation at the end of the XIXth century is very to the advantage of France which has a real colonial empire unlike Germany which only has a few colonies. The German appetite grew for the possession of colonies and it chose Morocco, a French protectorate, which led to two crises, the Tangier crisis in 1905 and the Agadir crisis in 1911. Two phases of tension which almost started a war.

And in 1914, at the height of rivalries, the First World War broke out through the infernal spiral of an alliance system dedicated to leading Europe towards war. We are then entering what historian Eric Hobsbawm calls “the era of catastrophes”. This war will cause the death of 1.5 million French and 2.2 million Germans. This war was to be the last, "the Der des ders". However six months after the armistice of November 11, 1918, the victorious countries will meet to draw up the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. It is the 14 Wilson points, named after the President of the United States at the time, which marks the beginnings of American power on the international scene.

The Treaty of Versailles will impose extremely harsh conditions on Germany, even impossible to maintain in terms of compensation for the destruction and especially the exploitation of the rich mining region of the Ruhr by France. President Wilson had clearly mentioned the fact that the winning countries and in particular France went too far in sanctions. He was not listened to. Shortly after, Marshal Foch will say about the Treaty of Versailles that It is not a peace, it is an armistice of twenty years. »(1920).

This treaty, this "diktat" under German eyes, which aimed to prevent Germany from being reborn already carries within it the seeds of a new war and the rise of Fascism in the 1920s shows this very clearly. In Germany, one of the main battles of fascism focuses on the Treaty of Versailles, a way of mobilizing the population and stoking the hatred and resentment of the Germans vis-à-vis the French.

This is why amputate a country, divide it or annex it against its will; to enslave an entire people for ideological, religious, economic reasons ...: so many political decisions which lead irremediably to confrontation. It is impossible to prevent a river from taking its course. We can channel it, build dams. But if the pressure is too strong, it rumbles until it blows everything in its path.

That's why the story sometimes tends to ramble, that's what happened in Germany. The living conditions of the Germans are then deplorable and the economic crisis of 1929 will be added to already very difficult conditions. In this deleterious climate, a man, Hitler, will pose as the savior of Germany and the Germans will follow him in the hope of a better condition of life. In the 1930s, Germany broke several points of the Treaty of Versailles, including that of rearmament. Germany is reconstituting its forces and France but also other countries do not react. The League of Nations, the League of Nations, is powerless.

Then came the Munich conference of September 1938. The Munich agreements were signed between Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy represented respectively by Adolf Hitler, Édouard Daladier, Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini. These agreements were intended to end the Sudetenland crisis but, indirectly, they seal the death of Czechoslovakia as an independent state, allowing Hitler to annex the German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia. France and England have shown total blindness, paralyzed by a pacifism which could not resist in the face of the bellicose enterprises of Hitler. Moreover, at this time, few politicians really understood the situation how dangerous for Europe and understood the nature of totalitarianism. Thus, a year later, Hitler invaded Poland and started World War II, the most terrible and most dramatic war that humanity has known until then.

Peace: The New Franco-German Daily

On May 8, 1945 in Europe and September 2, 1945 in Asia, the Second World War ended. And at the time of the balance sheet, Europe is destroyed and everything has to be redone with a view to reviving societies hard hit by war and poverty; the human toll, and the consequences of acts which still mark the spirits of our time, .... With the war is born a new configuration of peace in the world marked by the establishment of the United Nations (United Nations United) which succeeds the League of Nations. After 1945, the doors of the temple of Janus, God of war who, on the eve of the fall of the Roman republic, symbolized war, but closed peace, were closed after 1945. The Cold War and the ideological stakes that stemmed from it split Germany into two distinct parts, a split made from the occupation of Germany by France, the United States, the United Kingdom in the West, and the USSR in the East.

Consequently, the Franco-German friendship will be held in large part between France and the FRG, which emerges in 1949. The entry into this phase of prosperity and apogee of capitalism that constitutes the Thirty Glorious Years raises prodigiously the economies of European countries, new impetus given by the Marshall Plan from the United States in June 1947 which aimed to help rebuild Europe, but this plan also had an ideological aim, because the United States feared that Europe would the West did not fall into the hands of the Communist parties and therefore of Moscow, strong in their post-war prestige. Economic aid plan which is at the origin of the revival and the reconstruction of the FRG, it is what one called "the German economic miracle".

After a phase of democratic transition and of the so-called “5 D” policy, Germany must be Democratized, Demilitarized, Denazified, Decentralized, Decartelized. It should also be noted the importance in the political reconstruction of Germany of two political parties: the Christian Democratic Party with Konrad Adenauer as leader and the SPD (the German Social Democratic Party). In the continuity and sustainability of the political reconstruction of Germany, German society establishes a compromise between the elites and the population with two objectives: to break with Nazism (new democratic law put in place: federalism, separation of powers, the presence of the Constitutional Court, Karlsruhe). The second objective is to avoid the importance of the executive. (Weakness of the Weimar Republic, we then give more power to the chancellor). Everything will be done so that Germany becomes a democratic, free and capitalist country, making Germany an American product like the other countries of Western Europe.

As for France, after 1945 was painful and how complicated. France experiences a civil war and plunges into settling of scores to punish the collaborators of Nazi Germany, a form of atonement for a nation scarred by war, seeking to turn a dark page in its history. After a provisional government that tried to bring the country together, the Fourth Republic and its parliamentarism was born in 1946, a regime which ended in 1958, leaving room for a regime that we still know today, the Fifth Republic and its presidentialism.

To avoid a new war and end revanchism, efforts to reconcile had to be carried out. It is for this reason that the FRG will participate from its beginnings in the European construction of capital importance since the Franco-German friendship was united in parallel with this construction, this link becoming the heart of Europe. The Franco-German couple has always been a driving force behind European construction. And in this budding friendship, a founding event binds its two countries forever, it is the Elysée Treaty.

In 1963, President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the Élysée Treaty so that Franco-German cooperation would become a daily reality. Since then, many towns, schools, regions and universities have been twinned and the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ) has offered millions of young people the chance to participate in exchanges. Since 1999, and under the Weimar agreement, signed in 1997, the Franco-German University (UFA) has supported partnerships between French and German higher education establishments. It thus enables students from both countries to take courses shared between France and Germany, and researchers to pool their knowledge. And the post-treaty links of the Elysée will not stop intensifying, among the most famous binational activities, the common television channel, Arte, but also the preparation of a common Franco-German history manual. In the economic field, companies such as Airbus saw the light of day, the leading airline in Europe today.

A driving force for Europe

Subsequently, an innovative project saw the light of day during the 1990s and 2000s, it is the Lamy-Verheugen plan which tends to increase political coordination between France and Germany, even advancing the idea of ​​a Franco-German confederation. German. According to their plan, this union would have a common army, share its embassies and make the knowledge of both languages ​​compulsory for officials of both states. Project which was not followed up but which is still relevant today when the establishment of "a two-speed Europe" was mentioned, between France and Germany on the one hand and on the other, European countries revolving around the United Kingdom.

Despite past achievements and the importance of biannual bilateral summits, the Franco-German relationship has been seeking new meaning for several years. We can speak of routine, even of relative wear and tear. With the exception of a few economic sectors such as space, aeronautics and armaments, the large French and German groups often favor alliances in space-world. The Franco-German relationship is also established through international issues where the two countries very often form a common front, for example, Germany found itself with France to oppose the war in Iraq in 2003, opposition founded since it was admitted that the US intervention was based on a lie, that Iraq had the nuclear bomb.

But in the couple, it is still France which speaks the loudest on the international scene, thanks to its permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its right of veto, and it is she who has suffered the American wrath for threatening to veto the UN Security Council. But it is important to stress that this situation was made possible by the desire to speak with one voice on the international scene, in particular in organizations like the WTO. This does not prevent the differences. France is thus much more sensitive to African problems, we have seen it in Mali in 2013 and in the Central African Republic more recently and Germany wishes to keep a special relationship with Israel, while France has always had a relatively "neutral" diplomacy. on the Israeli-Arab conflict. Which has been questioned very recently.

A final part of this Franco-German friendship emerges from the commemorations of the centenary of the First World War and it suffices to mention the commemoration of Sunday August 3, 2014 on the site of Hartmannswillerkopf (Haut-Rhin), in the presence of French presidents. and German, François Hollande and Joachim Gauck. “One hundred years to the day after Germany declared war on France, Hollande and Gauck recalled the sacrifice of some 30,000 men from the two countries who were killed during the fighting between them on this rocky peak and have just as much celebrated Franco-German friendship and the construction of a Europe of peace, in the aftermath of World War II. ".

To conclude, let us evoke the quote from a former German soldier who fought during the Second World War on the heights of Stone, a hamlet located in the Ardennes a few kilometers south of Sedan, who spent a few days in May 1940, d 'a landscape filled with greenery which under the fire of the shells became a real hell. This man surrounded by veterans, whether French or German, declared "Franco-German Unity and Friendship will always be the bronze rock on which the union of European peoples and the peace we we all want. (Speech of May 25, 1975 to Stone).


- Corine Defrance, Ulrich Pfeil (Hg.), France, Germany and the Élysée Treaty, 1963–2013, CNRS Éditions, 2012.

- History of the construction of Europe since 1945, by Sylvain Kahn. PUF, 2018

Video: France: Running Scared of Germany? European Journal (July 2022).


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