The 60th anniversary of the Elysée treaty

The date of January 22nd , 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, i.e. of the Franco-German couple. On this occasion a day bringing together French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took place in Paris on Sunday. After a ceremony at the Sorbonne, which gave rise to speeches by the two counterparts, a Franco-German Council of Ministers took place at the Elysée. These formal receptions were coupled with a Franco-German parliamentary session at the National Assembly as well as a dinner between the two men.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on October 26, 2022. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on October 26, 2022. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

On the 22nd of January 1963, reconciliation between the two countries was sealed by General de Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer with the signing of the Cooperation Treaty. The Elysée Treaty determines several points concerning the organization and common objectives.

French president Charles de Gaulle, centre, and German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, sign the Elysée Treaty on January 22, 1963. Photo: AFP

First, for the organization four elements are to be remembered. The first point concerns the Heads of State and Government. They must ensure the proper implementation of the program and meet at least twice a year.

This is followed by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs. Indeed, he monitors the overall implementation of the program and are requested to meet at least every three months.

The third point relating to the organization of the treaty concerns those responsible for defense, education, and youth in both countries. The Ministries of the Armed Forces and Education must meet at the same frequency as the foreign ministers. In addition to these meetings, the Chiefs of Staff or their deputies meet every two months. The French High Commissioner for Youth and Sports and  the Federal Minister for Family and Youth or their representative will meet at least once every two months.

Finally, the fourth point of the organization establishes an inter-ministerial commission to follow up the problems of cooperation.

All these measures ensure dialogue and cooperation between the two states, formerly fiercely opposed, in a logic of sustainable peacebuilding. Therefore, the areas on which the emphasis is placed are those of defense, education and youth. The specific aim is to form a new generation of friendship and understanding between the two nations. Military association and mutual knowledge through national education policies play an important role in the process of understanding.

These guidelines guided the Franco-German couple in the last century. Nevertheless, they have now evolved.

With the current situation and the war in Ukraine, many points of tension are added to a relationship already made of difficult compromises and encouraging results. From then on, the theme of energy sovereignty in Europe was central. The relationship of the two states, often called the “engines” of the European Union, should also turn towards a strengthening of European military capability.

The war in Ukraine is also an opportunity for both countries to assert their difference with the United States. They can therefore rethink capabilities and military sovereignty on a European scale. This strengthening would also be part of the issues raised by the Treaty of Aachen in 2019. Beyond military and energy cooperation with the issue of Germany’s delivery of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine; In addition, cooperation in the field of culture and education, as well as environmental issues, has been strengthened.

The celebration of the sixtieth anniversary is also an opportunity to question European leadership and cooperation between the two counterparts. A time of adaptation is necessary to consolidate the relationship between the two men. There is also a need to develop communication and a good understanding. Indeed, Olaf Scholz could be perceived on the French side as wanting to be the only European leader, by taking decisions without consultation with his main partner.

Ultimately, the Franco-German couple was destabilized by a change of actor, the arrival of Olaf Scholz succeeding Emmanuel Macron’s good understanding with Angela Merkel, as well as the energy emergency in the face of environmental issues and the geopolitics of the war in Ukraine. However, and in accordance with the reasons for its creation, the Treaty pursues objectives of cooperation at the military, economic, cultural, and educational levels, with the more general objective of building peace and prosperity in Europe.

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