Germany and France will sign a new friendship treaty on Tuesday, as the succession of the 1963 Elysee Treaty. Analysts said that the new treaty intends to reinvigorate the French-German axis at the core of the EU and counter growing euroskeptic nationalism among some other members.
After 56 years the first friendship treaty was signed, the meeting comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel enters the twilight of her rule and French President Emmanuel Macron attempts to defuse the “yellow vest” anti-government rebellion. French and German ruling parties and their allies fear an unprecedented challenge from populists in May’s European Parliament elections.
Aachen Treaty commits to stronger Europe
The extension to the Elysee Treaty will be signed by Merkel and Macron in the German border city of Aachen, a historical symbol of European concord.
“Both states will deepen their cooperation in foreign affairs, defense, external and internal security and development and at the same time work on strengthening the ability of Europe to act independently,” states the treaty text, according to Reuters. The treaty extension also stipulates that it will be a priority of German-French diplomacy for Germany to be accepted as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The Aachen Treaty is a commitment to a strong, sustainable and sovereign Europe, according to the German government in an earlier press release.
Macron’s office said on January 9 that the new treaty will further strengthen Franco-German cooperation in the run-up to next year’s EU elections.
Germany and France: Engine of European integration
The two leaders will meet on Tuesday to ink an accord “which will strengthen the already close ties between Germany and France,” the French presidency said.
Merkel said in a video message posted last Saturday that the cooperation between Germany and France is an engine of European integration, noting the German-French friendship is “anything but self-evident.”
The world has changed, so a new contract is needed, Merkel said, adding the new treaty is with a list of projects that will be constantly updated to show how the two countries continue to work together in Europe.
A French presidency statement said that joint projects will cover areas such as climate change as well as the sensitive issue of “economic and social convergence.”
Stay close to counter challenges
Macron’s office said the Elysee Treaty extension will help both European powers tackle “the challenges they will be confronted with in the 21st century.”
While making clear that Germany and France remain committed to the EU and NATO defense alliance, the agreement also signals that Berlin and Paris will combat efforts by some nationalist politicians in Europe to erode the EU, according to Reuters.
“Germany and France are making clear that to solve future questions, we need more, not less cooperation,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said earlier this month.
Merkel and Macron are keen to head off any breakthrough for euroskeptic parties in the European Parliament vote, facing new challenges from U.S. President Donald Trump in the U.S. as well as EU governments in Italy, Poland and Hungary, reports said.
Opinion: Need to form a tougher core
An article posted on the Economist last Thursday said that by choosing Aachen as the place, Macron and Merkel aim to send a strong signal: France and Germany are still at the heart of the European project, guiding and dominating it, even as the British prepare to depart.
The article said the new treaty and its various side-documents focus on form rather than substance, citing Franco-German relations are at a low ebb and the EU needs to confront its many problems.
“Now, however, there are even stronger reasons than in 1963 for Germany and France to demonstrate their closeness,” an op-ed on Bloomberg said, indicating France and Germany need to form a tougher core to counter issues such as Brexit and Italy’s far-right populism.