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The Franco-German relationship - the engine of European integration

Südhölter, Tobias (2014) The Franco-German relationship - the engine of European integration.

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Abstract:The end of the Second World War represents a turning point for the two neighbouring countries of France and Germany. France was one of the four victorious powers. Initially, Germany was economically and politically isolated. After the establishment of the Federal Republic in 1949, it was therefore important for these two countries to approach one another again, with Charles de Gaulle representing France and Konrad Adenauer representing Germany. The result is reflected in the Elysée Treaty of 1963. From then onwards, Konrad Adenauer brought his European policy into line in order to uplift the German population, demoralised after having lost the war. The two countries had different concepts of Europe, not only in the immediate aftermath of the war, but also in the 1990s. This was particularly evident in the merger of the two German states in 1990. This event triggered fears in France that the German resurgence could also lead to a departure from Germany’s integration with the West. The end of the East-West conflict, however, marked a new era in Europe in foreign and security terms. German reunification also enabled France and Germany to actively participate in the European integration process. A motor function emerged through the joint cooperation in Franco-German relations in the European Community (EC). This common will continues to be the driving force in Europe, manifested by the Blaesheim process. In this process, Chirac and Schröder managed to settle their disputes from 2000 whilst negotiating the Treaty of Nice. This process also led to the resumption of the long-standing Franco-German friendship and partnership at both bilateral and European levels. The German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the French President Mitterand were instrumental in bringing about the conclusion of the Maastricht Treaty, leading to the political union of Europe. However, the two statesmen additionally pursued their own interests. French fears were reflected in the notion that Germany could assume supremacy in Europe following reunification. This fear was not seen by France at the time of the East-West conflict. The differences between the Member States, as well as between Germany and France, were resolved upon the conclusion of the Amsterdam Treaty on 2 October 1997. The difference between the Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Treaty was that again more importance was placed on supra-nationality. The Franco-German tandem contributed to this, in spite of having different interests concerning progress in the integration process. Over the decades, crises have occasionally occurred that had to be overcome. One such crisis was France’s rejection of the European Union (EU) Constitutional Treaty of 29 May 2005. This European political crisis became a problem of Franco-German cooperation. The population of France felt that its country would lose its status and soul. They feared the loss of their traditional values due to globalisation, immigration and sometimes European integration. Owing to its positive experience with federal structures, the German population was not afraid of losing its national identity. If the two partners wanted to do justice to their driving role in the integration process, the bilateral differences based on the two countries’ conceptions of Europe would have to be overcome. The change of government in Germany in 2005 also resulted in a change in the Franco-German tandem. Governmental responsibility devolved from Gerhard Schröder to Angela Merkel. In European policy, Merkel consciously supported the new Central and Eastern European countries – especially Poland. Nevertheless, Franco-German cooperation was essential to Merkel as a catalyst. The Chancellor differed from her predecessors. She attempted to embed German interests in a European framework whilst simultaneously enshrining them in transatlantic relations. She disagreed with Chirac on the Constitutional Treaty, the basic structure of which she wanted to preserve. Nicolas Sarkozy succeeded Chirac as French president. They both advocated improving relations with the United States of America (USA). They both vehemently rejected Turkey’s accession to the EU. They both thought positively about being close to their citizens. This was natural to Angela Merkel. Sarkozy, however, clearly stood out from his predecessors in the French presidential office in this regard. However, there were also divergences. This also is particularly reflected in the French position on economic interventionism, which is why Sarkozy also intervened in the economy when it seemed to be under pressure, while Mrs. Merkel felt obliged to separate the state from the economy. In many policy areas, Sarkozy adopted a liberal attitude, despite being aware of the French tradition of having a strong state. This was also his fundamental conviction. A new President of France was elected in 2012. Sarkozy was voted out of office. His successor was François Hollande. There will be no major change to the Franco-German relationship because both Hollande and Merkel are pragmatists. As a result of the EU debt crisis, however, Franco-German cooperation envisaged different solutions to economic and budgetary issues, affecting the motor function of Germany and France. The economic weakness of France is becoming increasingly apparent, which could cause the weighting within the Franco-German relationship to change in the long term. Decisions currently being taken in the EU will show whether the imbalance between the two countries can be redressed, enabling them to return to a common line.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Clients:
University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:70 social sciences in general
Programme:European Studies MSc (69303)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/65206
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