• France edition
 
Franco-German relations
France and Germany mark era of reconciliation
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a press conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty. Photo: Bertrand Langlois / AFP

France and Germany mark era of reconciliation

Published: 21 Jan 2013 18:09 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Jan 2013 18:09 GMT+01:00

Throughout a packed pomp-filled agenda of symbolic and business get-togethers which continue through Tuesday, Europe's power couple will seek to mask tensions that have strained Franco-German efforts to battle the euro crisis.

The celebrations to mark the signing on January 22, 1963 of the Elysee Treaty which formalised the former foes' friendship after the end of World War II will start with a working dinner in the snow-bedecked German capital and a meeting with youngsters.

Both governments will convene on Tuesday at the chancellery and lawmakers from the French National Assembly will hold a debate with their Bundestag counterparts in the Reichstag parliament building.

Merkel acknowledged differences with France in her weekly podcast Saturday but said she felt "a very great proximity" with Germany's neighbour, adding: "And when we have come together, then mostly a good new solution has come out of it."

"Strained relations have been overblown"

After Merkel spearheaded much of Europe's response to the three-year-long debt crisis with Hollande's conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, earning them the nickname 'Merkozy', her rapport with the Socialist is noticeably cooler.

The pair have differed on the best approach for stemming the eurozone turbulence - with Hollande pushing for measures to bolster growth, while Merkel's pro-austerity mantra made her a figure of hate in struggling EU member states but has gone down well among German voters.

But Philippe Marliere, a professor in French and European Politics at University College London believes any rows between the two have been overplayed by the media.

"If relations were strained then it would have been just after Hollande came to power, when he said he was going to tear up Europe's austerity bill," Marliere told The Local. "But it's been accepted by everyone and Hollande did not get what he wanted.

"More and more you can see that Hollande is continuing what Sarkozy did. There is no major reason for these two heads of state to be at odds with other."

Even if the two have pulled off compromises, Germany, which has fared far better in the crisis than many of its partners, has not hidden concern over the health of the French economy, which the French central bank estimates fell into a mild recession at the end of 2012.

The two now appear to have agreed on Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem to replace Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the Eurogroup after weeks of horse-trading.

"Germany no longer wants to be a big power"

Europe's driving force has limited cooperation on military matters too, as the Mali conflict and Germany's non-intervention in Libya in 2011 showed, and they have traditionally different approaches to intervention shaped by their respective histories.

"In foreign policy Germany no longer wants to be a big power. How could we be, after Hitler and Auschwitz?" German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Monday's Handelsblatt business daily.

"We are not refusing to take responsibility but we have a different relationship with military power," he said.

While French troops are fighting alongside Malian forces against Islamist fighters in the west African state, Germany has pledged two military transport planes and one million euros ($1.3 million) in humanitarian aid.

In signing the landmark treaty half a century ago, former French president Charles de Gaulle and ex-West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer opened a new chapter in cooperation that has since driven European unity.

Former EU Commission chief Jacques Delors told news weekly Der Spiegel that the symbolic value of the accord was "much more important" than its concrete implementation and that the regular meetings between their leaders and officials were of "inestimable" value.

"Both sides must speak to each other, also in difficult times," he said.

Looking ahead, Merkel also called in her podcast for German to be learnt in France and vice versa while admitting it was not an easy feat due to English being the dominant world language.

Having grown up in former East Germany she learned Russian and English, while Hollande's knowledge of German is basic.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French language myths
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
"Sacrebleu! Zut alorsù! Mon Dieu!, how many of these do the French really say? Photo: Shutterstock

'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?

Do the French really say "sacre blue!" or "zut alors!" when they want to curse? Or is it just a myth Anglos and their media have engineered? And if they don't use them then what do the French really say when they want to swear? READ  

TV love affair for French and German leaders
Can you imagine a real-life romance between Merkel and Hollande? Photo: AFP

TV love affair for French and German leaders

France's president and Germany's chancellor are carrying on a passionate affair, or at least that's the story line of a new German TV show. If you find the idea a bit ridiculous, there's a few critics that think so too. READ  

Woman killed by TGV train as she chases dog
Photo: Marsupilami92/Flickr

Woman killed by TGV train as she chases dog

A woman was struck and killed by a high-speed TGV train in France this week when she ran out onto the tracks to try to catch her escaped dog. It's the latest in a series of tragic accidents that have seen people killed by the trains. READ  

Julie Gayet wins privacy suit against Closer
Actress Julie Gayet, who had an affair with Hollande, won her privacy suit against Closer magazine on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Julie Gayet wins privacy suit against Closer

A French court has fined two tabloid magazine executives and a photographer over a photo of Julie Gayet, who became the subject of media hounding after her affair when President François Hollande was revealed in January. READ  

Valls vs Blair
Is Manuel Valls really a French Tony Blair?
Spot the difference. Or maybe there isn't any between Manuel Valls and Tony Blair? Photo: AFP

Is Manuel Valls really a French Tony Blair?

Is the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls really a Gallic Tony Blair? With the help of a political expert we taker a closer look to see if the oft-made comparison is fair or false. READ  

Trierweiler's new book 'won't spare' Hollande
Valerie Trierweiler has a potentially brutal book coming out on her time with President François Hollande. Photo: AFP

Trierweiler's new book 'won't spare' Hollande

A potentially explosive new memoir is due out this week from Valerie Trierwieler, France's ex-"first lady" who was dumped by the president for his mistress. The book apparently does little to "spare" François Hollande. READ  

France vows to get tough on job seekers
France orders crackdown on job seekers after it emerged tens of thousands of positions have been left unfilled. Photo:AFP

France vows to get tough on job seekers

The French labour minister has ordered a crackdown to root out those abusing unemployment benefits, after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of available jobs remain unfilled in France. READ  

Sarkozy's big return: Carla Bruni 'says non!'
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy does not want her husband to return to politics, according to reports. Photo: AFP

Sarkozy's big return: Carla Bruni 'says non!'

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy faces a few obstacles before he can fulfill his dream of becoming head of state once again - not least his numerous legal tangles. But it appears the biggest hurdle of all could be his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. READ  

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Brits may soon get the right vote in the UK for the rest of their lives. Photo: Hagwall/Flickr

Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule

The Conservative party in the UK has made a bid to woo expat voters by pledging to end the controversial “15-year rule” that prevents millions of Brits abroad from being able to vote. READ  

Most French admit they 'don't know about wine'
Most French people know nothing about wine, a new survey has revealed. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Most French admit they 'don't know about wine'

It may be the country’s most famous product but more than two thirds of French people admit they know nothing about wine, according to a new poll. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se