Wed, 01 February 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

Franco-German relations under pressure on Elysee anniversary

Update : 22 Jan 2023, 16:59

As France and Germany celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, there's mounting pressure for the two countries to revamp their cooperation and leadership within the EU.

France and Germany on Sunday will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Franco-German Elysee Treaty, the document that set a roadmap for bilateral cooperation between Paris and Berlin in foreign, defense and cultural policies.

France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Olaf Scholz will give speeches at the prestigious Paris Sorbonne University with the presidents of both parliaments laying down a wreath at the Pantheon mausoleum.

In the afternoon, the heads of state and lawmakers from both countries will convene for a bilateral Cabinet meeting at the Elysee, the residence of the French president.

"The ceremony will underline how vibrant the Franco-German relationship is and that we are jointly moving forward in Europe," an Elysee spokeswoman told the press in the run-up to the meeting.

European flags outside the EU Parliament in StrasbourgEuropean flags outside the EU Parliament in Strasbourg

Amid the many member states, France and Germany are often seen as the EU's driving forceImage: Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa/picture alliance

"We will discuss the big topics of our cooperation," she said, pointing towards defense, industrial policy, energy, EU reform, and immigration. "We made good use of the past few months to make progress in these areas."

Yet the events will be closely watched by the public and there is pressure on leaders to deliver some actual results, commentators say.

The last bilateral Cabinet meeting, originally scheduled for this past October, was canceled — or, as France was quick to stress, "pushed back" — despite the fact that the Elysee Treaty requires one such meeting per year.

The scheduling change was the climax of months of increasingly difficult ties between the two sides.

During that time, Germany, among other things, signed a deal for a new European air defense system that didn't include France — spurning Paris' own joint initiative with Italy.

For its part, France agreed on a new hydrogen and gas pipeline with Spain and Portugal, disregarding a project favored by Germany. Macron also publicly scolded Germany for "isolating itself."

But that canceled ministerial meeting turned out to be a wake-up call, according to Stefan Seidendorf, deputy director of Ludwigsburg-based think tank German-Franco Institute (DFI).

"Berlin government officials were astonished by the public pressure the 'delay' created," he told DW.

"They had thought that the Franco-German relationship would just automatically continue on a good track, but that wasn't the case" he explained.

Subsequently, there was a string of bilateral meetings by both countries' finance, economics and foreign ministers to mend the rocky relationship.

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