On 22 January 1963, General de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the Elysée Treaty. After the deadly conflict of the Second World War, this event marks reconciliation between the two countries and consolidates the leading role of the Franco-German cooperation in European integration. For the 56th anniversary of the agreement on 22 January 2019, a new treaty has been signed in Aachen by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. It represented a complementary act for the Elysée Treaty, particularly, by creating a Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly, and setting out important steps in the European defence agenda.
The return of Charles de Gaulle as head of the French executive in May 1958 could potentially represent a major challenge to the German Federal Republic (BRD), and to the European project as a whole. As staunch defender of national independence, the general had spoken out against the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Defence Community.
However, on 14th of July 1958, de Gaulle met for the first time with the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, welcoming him to his home in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. A meeting that allowed De Gaulle to reassure the German Chancellor of his intentions to respect the European treaties signed by France.
This meeting has been decisive also for the creation of the Elysée Treaty, as de Gaulle and Adenauer unveiled a shared vision of European integration, despite the historical issues existing between the two countries. The two statesmen then sought to set a Franco-German reconciliation, and also to establish a lasting friendship between the two peoples.
It is in this spirit that on 16 January 1963, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle agreed to sign a Franco-German treaty, and a few days later, the Franco-German cooperation became a reality. The Elysée Treaty was signed by de Gaulle and Adenauer on 22 January 1963 at the Elysée Palace, with the objective to organize inter-state relations in order to deepen cooperation between the two countries, in particular, defence, foreign affairs, education and youth (2013, Bernd Riegert, DW, In brief : What is actually in the Elysee Treaty ?).
Now, in 2019, and to be more precise, on the 22nd January 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron signed a new treaty “on Franco-German Cooperation and Integration” (2019, M. Delaporte, Breakingdefence), following the spirit of the Elysée Treaty signed almost 60 years before. This treaty has the objective to reinforce the relationship between France and Germany in many fields, including defence. It underlines the need to seek a viable way to constitute an effective and operational cooperation between the French and German armed forces, overcoming the objectives reached by the Franco-German Brigade.
Concerning the future of European defence, the Treaty brings forwards some interesting points in its agenda. The objective set is the one to bring to a closer cooperation and find a common ground between German and French armed forces. (2019, M. Delaporte, Breakingdefense). In order to reach such an objective, both France and Germany agreed to push on the security agenda.
Firstly, starting from article number one, the representatives of the two states made clear that foreign policy and common security are amongst the main points that the Treaty will cover, citing that “the two states are deepening their cooperation on European policy […] and act in favor of an effective and strong common foreign and security policy” (2019, Traite entre La Republique francaise et la Republique federale de l’Allemagne sur la cooperation et integration franco-allemandes).
Secondly, chapter two is dedicated to the main and most important features concerning the future cooperation between France and Germany in the military realm, not only at operational level, but in terms of capabilities too. This is clearly expressed in article 4, paragraph number 2: “[the states] commit to strengthen Europe’s capacity for action and to invest jointly to fill its capability gaps, thus strengthening the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance”.
A joint effort to implement cooperation in the defence industry in order to build common capabilities is a fundamental step towards effective interoperability, as stated in paragraph 3: “promote the competitiveness and consolidation of the European defense industrial […] base, and […] support the closest possible cooperation between their defense industries on the basis of mutual trust ”
Moreover, always in paragraph 3, it is stated that France and Germany “pledge to further strengthen cooperation between their armed forces with a view to establishing a common culture and joint deployments.” Establishing a common military culture might become a fundamental step towards interoperability between European armed forces. It is indeed a cornerstone in the field of military cooperation in Europe.
Before this treaty, the Franco – German military cooperation relaid on the existence of the Franco German brigade, however, this has never been deployed in third countries following multinational operations. The German doctrine, at this point, might indeed be at a crossroad, choosing, possibly, the path of a greater operational commitment.
To conclude, the Franco-German cooperation project started almost 60 years ago, and has already reached important objectives. In the military field, one of the most ambitious projects has been the Franco-German brigade, however, with the 2019 Aachen Treaty, both parts decided, in a cooperative spirit, to deepen their level of cooperation. By including topics such as culture and industry, it is foreseeable an enhanced level of interoperability between the two countries, which will hopefully represent a cornerstone for other European countries. Also, this treaty comes in a moment in which the German Ministry of Defence is investing more and more in the armed forces, and is proposing to accept foreigners between its lines, as already reported in Finabel’s Info Flash on 22/01/2019 that you can find here. (link to “German Forces intend to recruit Foreign Citizenship from EU countries.”)
Written by Christian Contro and Benjamin Duclos, on behalf of the Finabel Permanent Secretariat
2019, Maurielle Delaporte, Breakingdefense.com, Towards more European Defence Integration: Aachen Franco-German Treaty, https://breakingdefense.com/2019/01/towards-more-european-defense-integration-aachen-franco-german-treaty/
2019, French ministry of foreign affairs, France Diplomatie, The Elysée Treaty in five questions, https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/germany/france-and-germany/elysee-treaty/
2013, Bernd Riegert, DW, In brief : What is actually in the Elysee Treaty ?, https://www.dw.com/en/in-brief-what-is-actually-in-the-elysee-treaty/a-16520266
2013, Mindfully.org, Atlantic Council, Text of the Elysee Treaty (Joint declaration of Franco-German Friendship), https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/text-of-the-elysee-treaty-joint-declaration-of-francogerman-friendship
2019, Traite entre La Republique francaise et la Republique federale de l’Allemagne sur la cooperation et integration franco-allemandes, available at (French version): https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/dossiers-pays/allemagne/relations-bilaterales/traite-de-cooperation-franco-allemand-d-aix-la-chapelle/
2019, Soren Kern, France and Germany “We Are Committed to the Emergence of a European Army”, France and Germany: «We Are Committed to the Emergence of a European Army»