The political leaders of France and Germany signed a new treaty on Tuesday to update their 1963 post-war reconciliation accord, aiming to reinvigorate the EU’s main axis as growing eurosceptic far-right political parties challenge the Union’s fragile cohesion.
At an official state ceremony in the German border city of Aachen, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron wanted to show they could provide ‘fresh leadership’. It comes at a time when analysts have cast doubt on whether France and Germany can still lead an EU that has grown to 27 members.
The meeting also aimed at strengthening and deepening Franco-German cooperation in areas such as the economy, foreign and security policy, concluding in a 16-page treaty.
Details of the Aachen Treaty
The Aachen Treaty document contains as a priority for Germany to be accepted as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Berlin has long sought to join its Western allies - the US, UK and France - on the international body with a permanent seat.
The accord also signals that Berlin and Paris will remain committed to the NATO military alliance and will seek to combat efforts by any right and left-wing political powers that aims to weaken the EU.
Merkel described the agreement as a step towards establishing a European army, stated in the fourth article of the agreement.
“Both states undertake to further strengthen cooperation between their armed forces with a view to a common culture and joint operations. They will intensify the development of joint defence programmes, their extension to partners… [and] set up the Franco-German Defence and Security Council as a political steering body for these mutual obligations,” it read.
Symbolic value of the meeting
The date of the meeting was January 22.
The same date 66 years ago, the then French president Charles de Gaulle and German chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the Elysee Treaty in Paris to put behind them what had happened during World War II and laid the ‘foundation stone’ for Franco-German friendship.
The leaders are considered, among others, as the ‘founding fathers’ of the European Union.
The city of Aachen is a German border city, which used to be part of the Holy Roman Empire, were Charlemagne the Great was throned and laid the foundation of what became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire (between 936-1531).
Charlemagne unified the Frankish state and several German princedoms and mythically considered the Pater Europae (Father of Europe).
Therefore, the place and time of the treaty have symbolic values for both nations in constructing a historical and political narrative.
Yellow vests in Aachen
Despite the warm atmosphere between both political leaders and a symbolic state ceremony, around 200 protesters gathered in Aachen to protest, many wearing the now iconic yellow vests of the current protest movement.
The yellow vest protest waves in France are in their 10th week, with up to 30,000 people demonstrating on weekends all over France.