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France, Germany Mark Postwar Reconciliation Amid Divisions

  • Lisa Bryant

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande react after a speech in front of the Reims cathedral in Reims, eastern France, July 8, 2012.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande react after a speech in front of the Reims cathedral in Reims, eastern France, July 8, 2012.

PARIS — France and Germany briefly patched up their differences over the eurozone crisis, as their leaders met in the northern French town of Reims to mark the 50th anniversary of their post-war reconciliation.

Standing outside the 800-year-old Reims Cathedral on a rainy Sunday, French President Francois Hollande welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He used soaring words to describe the post-war reconciliation of Europe's two historic foes. It was realized at this same cathedral in 1962 by their predecessors - France's Charles de Gaulle and Germany's Konrad Adenauer.

Hollande said de Gaulle and Adenauer were lucid enough to look beyond centuries of warfare at what the nations had jointly achieved. And audacious enough to imagine a common future after so much pain and anger.

The reconciliation between France and Germany laid the foundations for the European Union.

In brief remarks at the Reims cathedral, both Hollande and Merkel spoke about the challenges ahead for Europe.

Hollande said the eurozone crisis offers the EU a chance to make a new start. He expressed confidence the 27-member bloc will be able to reconcile economic and social progress, competitiveness with solidarity, and national sovereignty with EU membership.

But Merkel described the EU's shortfalls, noting it has yet to realize a full economic and monetary union. She called it a Herculean task but said Europe is up to the job - and will emerge stronger than ever.

France and Germany have been the motor driving the EU for decades. Today, Hollande and Merkel are still crafting their new relationship. Underscoring its importance, Hollande visited Merkel in May, hours after being sworn into office.

But the two leaders are sharply divided over the prescriptions for fixing the eurozone crisis. Hollande is emphasizing growth. He has struck new alliances with his Spanish and Italian counterparts. Merkel is a budget stickler. She is also skeptical about pooling EU debt in the form of eurobonds, which Hollande supports.

Their 50th-anniversary ceremony was marred by news that dozens of German war graves have been vandalized in northern France.
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