Will the new Franco-German pact help heal the EU’s divisions?
Dr Andrew W M Smith, historian of modern France at the University of Chichester, says YES.
From its inception, European integration revolved around the axis of Franco-German unity. In 1963, Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer tied the knot at the Elysee palace, and Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel last week renewed their commitment to the European project at Aachen with vows on cross-border economic cooperation and collective security.
De Gaulle doubted America’s commitment to Europe, as might Macron and Merkel today, seeking to ensure that the continent remains more than a playground for competing powers in tumultuous times.
Codifying political partnership and economic cooperation at the heart of Europe is a bulwark against the siren call of nationalist retreat, reminiscent of that first Elysee treaty.
Conspiratorial falsehoods belted out by the anti-EU factions in both countries threatened to drown out the Aachen treaty’s aims, and spats like Matteo Salvini’s barracking of Macron have dominated Europe’s mood music.
Yet this treaty, signed amid strains of Mozart and Debussy, can mark both a reprise and the start of a new sequence in the concert at Europe’s heart.
Benedict Spence, a freelance writer, says NO.
A deepening in relations between France and Germany makes sense: the EU was founded on binding the two closer together.
But the European project isn’t a two-player game anymore – it’s now an engorged mass of diverse nations with different agendas which carry a lot more weight than they once did.
As France and Germany cosy up, Italy’s Matteo Salvini is making overtures to leaders in Warsaw and Budapest, drumming up support for a coalition of “sovereigns”. They are angry at Germany’s post-national view of Europe, and the duo’s lecturing of the south and east. They want powers returned to them from Brussels, and German influence reigned in.
These countries have Europe in a tough spot. While not yet powerful enough to take on Germany and France, their economies, especially in the south, could still do more damage than their politicians; an Italian collapse would drag France over the edge with it.
Alienating the rest of Europe won’t help the EU – it will deepen the rifts that could split it.