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France and Germany Celebrate 40th Anniversary of 'Friendship' Treaty - 2003-01-22

France and Germany are celebrating the 40th anniversary of a treaty that ended centuries of mutual antagonism. The two countries aim to forge even closer bonds in the coming years.

Forty years ago, French leader Charles de Gaulle and then-West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed an historic friendship accord, known as the Elysee Treaty.

On Wednesday, current French President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the reunited Germany announced a series of new measures, from appointing special diplomatic counselors, to holding annual French-German days, designed to bring the two countries even closer.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Mr. Chirac said a so-called Community of Destiny has been built over the past four decades between France and Germany. He said the French-German cooperation has served as a force and engine for Europe.

The two-day celebrations began in Paris, and end Thursday in Berlin. They included an unprecedented joint meeting of the French and German parliaments at the Versailles Palace outside Paris.

The location is significant. It was at Versailles in 1871, that Prussia announced a vast German empire stretching across a defeated France. Germany and allied nations also gathered at the palace in 1919, to sign the famous Versailles Treaty, signaling the end of the First World War.

Today, French and German leaders hold regular meetings to bridge differences on a variety of economic and political matters. Last week, for example, Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder announced a joint proposal for two presidents to head a future and expanded European Union. And Wednesday, the two said they share a common perspective on the Iraq crisis.

Indeed, Mr. Schroeder said the French-German friendship treaty has been helpful in what he called these difficult times.

Mr. Schroeder said the two countries have helped cement European Union expansion to include 10 new countries.

France and Germany are traditionally considered what is termed the "motors" of the EU. But both countries face economic difficulties. And some analysts question whether the two will be as powerful in a larger, future EU as they are at present.