Robert HARNEIS –TDO- President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany have signed a new treaty of alliance on the anniversary of its 1963 predecessor.
It is clearly aimed at the upcoming European elections and likely gains by populist-nationalist parties in May’s European Parliament elections.
The new treaty, which the two leaders have produced like a rabbit out of a hat, has not met with universal acclaim. In particular it is asked how a private deal by two-member states can encourage cohesion amongst the other 25, as it claims.
Both leaders have been weakened in recent months. Chancellor Angela Merkel is now serving out her final term, President Emmanuel Macron has battled the rise of the yellow vest protest movement and plummeting approval ratings.
Far-right leaders in France have meanwhile attacked the pact which broadly claim that Macron is “selling out” French sovereignty to its neighbor across the Rhine. It is beyond doubt that the French side gives away much more than the Germans.
The new pact was signed in the German border city of Aachen, known as Aix-la-Chapelle in French, on January 22, which marks the day in 1963 when post-World War II German chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French president Charles de Gaulle signed the Elysee Treaty in Paris.
The new document commits both sides to annual government meetings, on top of regular meetings bringing together 50 MPs from each country.
Both countries pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder in case of a military attack against either of them, but this only reaffirms a commitment already written into EU and NATO treaties.
Paris and Berlin will also create a new joint Defense and Security Council and seek to harmonize rules for military equipment exports, which are now usually handled more restrictively in Germany.
France is to back Germany’s long-running campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Loudest among the protesters, French radical right leader Marine Le Pen has predicted that Paris will eventually give up its UN Security Council seat to Berlin and even share control over its nuclear weapons arsenal.
The continent’s two biggest economies say they want to create a “German-French economic region with common rules”.
A new 10-member joint council of experts would seek to find ways to harmonize tricky areas of economic law and remove investment barriers.
Both countries also want to boost cooperation in digital-economy and artificial intelligence research and to promote renewable energies to fight climate change.
A major focus is to boost people-to-people ties along the 450-kilometre common border, which many people cross daily for work, study or fun. However, the French government will have to tread carefully in Alsace and Moselle both of which areas have unfortunate memories of German occupation.
A new “citizen’s fund” of an as yet undetermined size would support city partnerships and cross-border initiatives ranging from bilingual child care centers to public transport links.
Paris and Berlin also want to encourage more citizens to learn each other’s language and improve the mutual recognition of academic qualifications.
To facilitate all this, some regions could be granted greater autonomy to cut through rules and red tape.
It is likely that one of the motives on the French side is to create a situation where, if the Euro breaks up, the new division in Europe will not be along the Rhine but rather the Alps and the Pyrenees. Neither the French electorate nor their representatives have been consulted so far.