Mr Link, on 22 January 2013 France and Germany will celebrate the signing of the Élysée Treaty. The document is the foundation for the friendship between the two countries and the starting point for their close partnership. What makes the bilateral relationship so special, and why is the German-French cooperation now also so important within the European Union?
Link: Density, intensity and trust make the cooperation between Germany and France unique. Both countries are the engine of the EU and a model of reconciliation between peoples. Politically, the close coordination with France is for us now a natural reflex. Economically, each country is by far the other’s most important export market. In times of globalisation, we need one another so as together to defend European values in the world within the framework of a capable EU.
One challenge for the future of the German-French cooperation is to attract the interest of young people in the culture and language of the neighbouring country. How do you assess the mutual interest? And what proposals do the two governments have to foster the exchange?
Since 1963 over eight million young Germans and French have taken part in an exchange organised by the German-French Youth Office. The promotion of language skills is naturally very important for us. There are now countless bilingual kindergartens, schools and universities. In future we want to focus on expanding joint vocational training and the language courses at vocational schools.
To give the cooperation a fresh impetus, the two governments have declared 2012/2013 the German-French Year. What joint events and projects are planned? What effect do you hope the anniversary year will have?
In the German-French Year over 200 events will take place in Germany alone, ranging from scientific conferences and art exhibitions to street festivals. In the anniversary year, on 22 January 2013, the parliaments and governments of both countries will meet in Berlin. We hope the anniversary will particularly foster the interest of young people in the German-French friendship, because this friendship is not simply given but something that needs to be renewed in each generation.
Opening ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Élysée Treat, 22 January 2013 in Berlin