New Franco-German friendship pact

Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron are to sign an accord for a closer relationship.

Neuer deutsch-französischer Freundschaftspakt

Berlin/Paris (dpa) - Exactly 56 years after the signing of the history Elysee Treaty, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will be sealing a new friendship pact in the city of Aachen. The ceremony for the new Aachen Treaty is set for January 22 in the coronation hall of the Aachen Town Hall, government spokesman Steffen Seibert disclosed Tuesday in Berlin.

The Elysee Palace in Paris confirmed the date. The new German-French treaty is set to deepen the economic, social, political, cultural and technological ties between the two countries. For months it had been uncertain as to where the treaty signing would take place.

"Between the tip of Britanny to the eastern tip of Germany there is a lot of room and many places," Richard Ferrant, president of the French National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament, had commented in November.

The Elysee Treaty was signed January 22, 1963 by then-West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris. Coming 18 years after the end of World War Two, the accord declared the friendship between the two formerly hostile countries.

It was the 41-year-old Macron, in his speech about Europe at the Sorbonne University in Paris in September 2017, who put forth the idea for an updated version of the treaty. In June 2018 the two countries, in a joint declaration in Meseberg, Germany, agreed on the aim of working out a new Elysee Treaty by the end of the year. 

In May last year, pro-Europe politician Macron received Germany's prestigious international Karlspreis (Charlemagne Prize) in Aachen. At the time, the French leader was critical of Germany for being too strict in its austerity policy and lacking courage in pushing for reform in Europe.

The planned signing ceremony in Aachen was welcomed both as an honour and an obligation by politicians in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia where the city is located. State Premier Armin Laschet (Christian Democratic Union party) called the decision to sign the new friendship treaty designated as the "Aachen Treaty" as an "unprecedented historical acknowledgment of the role of North Rhine-Westphalia. Out of the Elysee Treaty will come the Aachen Treaty: the renewal of German-French relations here, the city of Charlemagne," Laschet told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Wednesday.

At the time when Adenauer and De Gaulle signed the Elysee Treaty, enthusiam was muted. On the German side there were suspicions that the French leader wanted to loosen the young West German republic from the power influence of the United States. As a result, in the preamble to the treaty, the German parliament stressed the commitment to friendship with the US and Britain - something that on the other hand did not please De Gaulle so much. "Treaties are like girls and roses," said the leader who is still revered as a hero in France. "They hold up just so long as they hold up."