France and Germany forge cultural ties

Aachen Treaty pledges wide-ranging cooperation

merkel macron

France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel have signed an agreement that promises closer cooperation between their two countries, including on culture.

The treaty, which the leaders signed in the German city Aachen on 22 January, “will strengthen the already close links between Germany and France, particularly in the fields of economic policy, foreign and security policy, education and culture, research and technology, climate and environment, as well as cooperation between border regions and between civil societies,” the two governments said.

“Both states recognise the decisive role played by culture and the media in strengthening the Franco-German friendship,” the treaty itself says. “As a result, they are determined to create for their peoples a shared space of freedom and opportunity, as well as a common cultural and media space.”

Specific programmes and a digital platform, especially for young people, will be created “to foster ever closer links in all areas of cultural expression, including through integrated cultural institutes”, the treaty says. It does not provide much extra detail, but says that mobility and exchange programmes, again especially for young people, will play a part.

More generally, the treaty says it is intended to help the two countries tackle their common challenges, and bring their societies and citizens closer together. This will go hand-in-hand with commitments to deepen European unity more broadly, it says.

However, Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European Council, which brings together EU member state governments, said that Europe needed “a clear signal” from the French and German governments that their bilateral agreement was “not an alternative to the cooperation of all of Europe”.

He said: “To the east of Germany there are hundreds of places where the European spirit of a place – genius loci – is felt as strongly as in Aachen, Paris or Berlin, and where millions of people live whose hearts beat for Europe, a Europe of mutually supportive and equal nations.”

The treaty builds on a similar agreement, called the Elysée Treaty, which was signed in 1963 by French president Charles de Gaulle and German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. It says that the earlier treaty made “an exceptional contribution” to “the historic success of the reconciliation between the French and German peoples” after World War II.

Words: Craig Nicholson
Photo: European Commission

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