France and Germany have today reinforced their post-war partnership by signing a new ‘Treaty on Cooperation and Integration’ in Aachen, Germany, which updates and extends the Elysée Treaty, also signed on this date in 1963, and which laid out the road plan for their 60-year partnership.
The treaty was signed today by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the German city of Aachen, known in France as Aix-la-Chapelle. It covers many aspects of bilateral cooperation, but this story concentrates on defense aspects.
The new treaty notably extends the bilateral defense relationship, and has caused some other members of the European Union to express fears that, with Brexit disposing of the third European defense heavyweight, the French-German “couple” will come to dominate EU defense and security, and could absorb the lion’s share of the European Union’s growing R&D funds.
Below are the treaty’s main defense provisions, selected and translated by D-A.com. It is of note that these aspects are covered in the fourth of the treaty’s 28 articles, thereby illustrating the primacy of defense and security issues.
While generally supportive of the initiative, observers in France note that the treaty is being signed at a time when both nations’ leaders are weakened politically. It also is possible that some of its provisions will not be ratified by both parliaments, as required before the treaty comes into force.
Deployment of German troops on French combat missions, for example, is likely to be questioned by German opposition parties and public opinion, while the promise that both countries “will develop a common approach to arms exports with regard to joint projects” will raise many hackles, as German public opinion generally opposes arms exports.
In November, Berlin was forced to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, both involved in a regional war, under popular pressure after the murder of Saudi opponent Jamal Khashoggi, and measures to liberalize German export controls to accommodate France’s more liberal export policies are likely to inflame public opinion.
Exports of weapons jointly developed by France and Germany are governed by the Debré-Schimdt agreement, signed in 1971 by the two countries’ then defense ministers, Michel Debré and Helmut Schmidt, and which stipulates that each country will allow the other to export weapons developed in common.
“Under pressure from the Social Democrats (SPD), implementation of the agreement was lifted in the last legislative period. We need a new export agreement with France, otherwise there will be no joint arms projects. The SPD must show whether it really takes more Europe seriously,” Matthias Wachter, a department head at the Federation of German Industries (BDI) tweeted in reply to a question on the need for new export rules.
Finally, some observers in France question why the very existence of the treaty was kept secret until early January, when the full text was quietly released on the Elysée website, and this unusual lack of publicity gave free rein to opponents to expound various conspiracy theories that have gained traction in some opposition circles.
Opinion in Germany appears somewhat more supportive. “The Treaty of Aachen sends a strong signal: Cooperation between Germany and France must resume speed. Europe desperately needs this departure,” Joachim Lang, the Chief Executive of BDI, tweeted this morning.
Defense provisions: Article 4
— The two States, convinced that their security interests are inseparable, are increasingly converging their security and defense objectives and policies, thereby strengthening the collective security systems of which they are part.
— The two States pledge to further strengthen cooperation between their armed forces with a view to establishing a common culture and joint deployments. They are intensifying the development of common defense programs and expanding them to other partners. In so doing, they intend to promote the competitiveness and consolidation of the European defense industrial and technological base. They support the closest possible cooperation between their defense industries on the basis of mutual trust. Both States will develop a common approach to arms exports with regard to joint projects.
— The two states have instituted the Franco-German Defense and Security Council as the political body to steer these reciprocal commitments. The Council will meet at regular intervals at the highest level.