Franco German Friendship
In the heart of Munich a marquee was erected in front of the Italianating loggia façade of the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshalls’ Hall), a monumental building with military connotation. Perhaps not the most appropriate backdrop for the commemoration of the Anglo German Elysee Treaty of friendship signed by Adenauer and de Gaulle fifty years ago to seal reconciliation between the two countries after centuries of rivalry.
The exhibition recounted the lives of Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer and showed how they met and constructed closer Franco-German cooperation after the second world war. Among their efforts was the creation of the Franco-German Youth Office as both leaders believed that young people were in the best position to initiate a fresh start towards understanding and exchange between the two countries. Town twinning followed, focusing on school exchanges initially. Ten years ago, for the celebration of forty years since the Elysee Treaty signature the two countries created a number of bi-lateral institutions, such as the Franco-German Ministerial Council and the Franco German history course-book offering a shared vision.
Discovering the Elysee Treaty
After fifty years, those born two generations after the second world war were curious to learn about their history of reconciliation which corroborates the importance of peace in Europe, wilfully masterminded by Robert Schuman (European integration through joint control of coal and steel production), Jean Monnet (inspiration behind the Schuman Plan 1950), Paul-Henri Spaak (architect of the Treaty of Rome), Altiero Spinelli (proposing of a European Parliament) and others who were determined that Europe should never again descend into armed conflict.
The exhibition is travelling to many cities in Germany and France. Besides a series of video documents showing the evolution since the Elysee Treaty, there were life size pictures of how the political leaders of the two countries faired with each other, sometimes in harmony, sometimes less so, but united about France and Germany at the heart of Europe.
The role of the UK
The Eurosceptics of the UK would do well to remember that it was Winston Churchill who was calling for a Unites States of Europe to guarantee peace and eliminate both nationalism and war-mongering. It was he as well who championed the creation of a Council of Europe, a European army and a European Court of Human Rights. The call for a common market was made by a Dutch banker, Johan Willen Beyen, not anyone from the London’s financial sector, while Joseph Bech from Luxembourg helped set up the European Coal and Steel Community, the initial European institution which led eventually to the European Union. Yet it was Adenauer, at the head of a newly formed state, Federal Germany, whose cornerstone of foreign policy was reconciliation with France, which was an instrumental step on the road to European integration.
Lasting peace on our doorstep is perhaps not as exciting as venturing into imperial nostalgia and playing rainmakers in far away troubled states. It is worrying to note that the war mongers are dangerously close to arming rebels, with the illusion that they can pick and choose who will get hold of the arsenal they plan to add to the killing fields in a fragmented country effectively at civil war.
No amount of marching in the streets managed to deter Blair from stepping into Iraq, no amount of protests hindered the British to play second fiddle to the United States in Afghanistan, despite the history of defeats of outsiders, and now the UK government is contemplating to interfere in one of the most unstable parts of the Middle East.
There is something to be said for cooperating with the European Union in trying to resolve the economic crisis unleashed by casino banking, for elaborating new institutions which would protect the unsuspecting public from ‘business as usual’ and austerity for the many imposed by the few who hold enough wealth to escape it, and all that without a single gun.