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Germany-France Relations in the Shadow of the Anniversary of the Elysee Treaty

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Germany and France, two countries that have fought each other for centuries, have begun to take steps to jointly shape the future of Europe after the end of World War II. With the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952, relations between Berlin and Paris have developed in the energy context. This community has played an important role, especially in the process leading up to the political system of the European Union (EU). With the Maastricht Treaty signed in 1992, the EU has taken on a political structure.

On the other hand, the Elysee Treaty, which was signed in Paris on January 22, 1963 and known as the friendship treaty between Germany and France, is of great importance in terms of forming the basis of the cooperation of the two countries. In other words, the Treaty of Elysee symbolizes the end of the long-standing struggle between Berlin and Paris and their beginning to fight for common ideals in Europe.

However, it can be argued that from that date onwards, German-French relations were generally harmonious. This partnership has been the main reason why the EU has acted as a whole for many years. Moreover, the two countries are the largest economies of the EU. These qualities of Berlin and Paris have enabled the union to remain economically viable for many years, as well as to gain influence over other EU members.

On the other hand, the cooperation between Germany and France has been deeply wounded after the Russia-Ukraine War that began on February 24, 2022. In particular, the two countries are experiencing significant disagreements over the energy crisis and defense policies. This situation prevents the EU from displaying integrity in the face of the crises created by the war. In other words, the joint action of Germany and France is of great importance in terms of shaping the EU’s policy. While France is the leading member of the EU in the field of defense, Germany is also leading in the economic dimension.

As it will be remembered, Germany’s announcement of 200 billion euros of energy support to the public and companies in September 2022 caused a great reaction from France. Because the Berlin administration did not inform Paris of this move in advance. For this reason, France considered that German companies would have an unfair advantage over the EU market.[1] In this context, considering the war conjuncture in Europe, France felt betrayed in a way due to Germany’s unilateral moves. Therefore, the war in Ukraine is also important in terms of testing the partnership between Germany and France.

Furthermore, another reason for the problem between the two countries stems from common defense policies. In particular, the war has forced Germany to review its defense policy. In this context, it was seen that the United States (US) began to gain importance in Germany’s armament policy after the war. In this context, the Berlin administration approved the purchase of F-35 fighter jets worth 10 billion euros from Washington on December 14, 2022.[2]

Germany’s move has attracted the reaction of France. French President Emmanuel Macron has been drawing attention to the need to establish a European Army since he took office in 2017 and has been taking initiatives accordingly. In other words, France is not happy with Germany’s move to integrate its defense policy with the US.

Moreover, Germany and France differ on the policy they pursue towards China. The difference in the policy pursued by Berlin and Paris towards Beijing is mostly due to the trade factor.  Germany’s economy is more externally oriented and dependent on the Chinese market than France.[3] In this context, France is uncomfortable with Germany’s close relations with China. The Paris administration wanted to develop a similar relationship that Berlin improved with Beijing. However, the fact that Germany is more advantageous than France in both technology and economy has given Berlin an advantage.

Some French officials also point out that there is no chemistry between Scholz and Macron as there is between Merkel and Macron. In particular, Macron allegedly found it disturbing that, unlike Merkel, Scholz showed little interest in spending personal time with him. A French official said: “Macron and Merkel used to text every day. Scholz doesn’t talk to Macron every day. We even had a hard time getting them together in person.”[4]

As can be understood, the end of Merkel’s term has been instrumental in undermining the harmony between France and Germany. Furthermore, Scholz’s inability to display a strong image like Merkel has led both union members and other states to question Germany’s dominance in the EU.

On the other hand, on January 22, 2023, on the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, Scholz and Macron met in Paris. During the meeting, the parties discussed Europe’s challenges in security, energy and other areas while trying to overcome their differences. At the Sorbonne University, Macron pointed out that France and Germany should be pioneers for the restructuring of Europe. Moreover, the French President emphasized that Germany and France are two souls in one chest. Scholz stated that the future of the EU depends on cooperation between the parties as in the past.[5]

The Scholz-Macron meeting, which took place in the shadow of the Elysee Treaty, is important for the parties to renew trust with each other. Although the leaders of the two countries draw attention to the importance of the partnership between France and Germany for the EU, it is clear that this cooperation has been greatly damaged in the process that started with the war in Ukraine. In this respect, it seems difficult for Berlin and Paris to maintain a partnership as close as before the war. This makes the dominance of Germany and France over the EU questionable.

In conclusion, it is foreseeable that the differences of opinion that have deepened in various fields with the war will continue. Therefore, it can be argued that the relations on the Berlin-Paris line are not as robust as they were in the pre-war period.


[1] “French-German Friendship ‘Still Alive’ As Macron Meets Scholz Amid Tensions”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/26/french-german-friendship-still-alive-as-macron-meets-scholz-amid-tensions, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

[2] “Germany Approves 10 Bln Euro F-35 Jet Deal With U.S.”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/german-budget-committee-approves-f-35-fighter-jet-deal-with-us-sources-2022-12-14/, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

[3] “German-French Rift On China Policy Reflects ‘Sour Grapes’ Mentality”, Global Times, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202210/1278149.shtml, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

[4] “Analysis: Behind Facade of Unity, Franco-German Relations Falter As Crises Mount”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/behind-facade-unity-franco-german-relations-falter-crises-mount-2022-10-26/, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

[5] “Two Souls in One Chest: Germany and France Renew Alliance Strained By Ukraine”, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/2023/01/22/inflation-subsidies-and-ukraine-germany-and-france-meet-to-overcome-differences, (Date of Accession: 24.01.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.