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France/Germany/cooperation

Published on October 17, 2014
Article by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, published in the daily newspapers Le Figaro and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Paris, October 15, 2014

Paris and Berlin: let’s be united against the crises!

Today, Wednesday, for the first time, a French foreign minister is taking part in the German Cabinet meeting – just as the German Foreign Minister took part in the French Council of Ministers’ meeting five months ago.

Some people may consider this to be no more than yet another image of tired Franco-German friendship. They would be wrong and would be overlooking two realities: the depth of relations between our two countries and the seriousness of the crises we must face together.

Of course, differences exist between us. Our political and economic cycles are not identical. Our societies react to their own history, their myths, sometimes their illusions. Those differences may stem from misunderstandings: it is up to us to remove them. They may also result from underlying causes: this is when dialogue and consultation must enable us to achieve the right solution.

Those who think they can discern, in the discussions between us, a decline in the Franco-German relationship are on the wrong track. Those who believe it is good to revive the old spectres of animosity towards the neighbouring country are getting worked up for no reason. The friendship between our two countries is very solid and, thankfully, transcends short-term vicissitudes.

For we, Germany and France, must face up to the same world full of dangers: a geopolitical crisis at the gates of Europe, in Ukraine; crises in Syria, Iraq and Libya, with the emergence of new terrorist powers; a health crisis with the Ebola virus epidemic; and a climate crisis, amid the uncontrolled rise in greenhouse gas emissions that is threatening our planet.

In the face of these challenges, which are unprecedented in their scale and simultaneity, we must act, and my German counterpart and friend, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and I are acting hand in hand in order to address this and help build our common future.

In Africa, our shared contribution in the face of the terrorist threats that are jeopardizing states is essential. In Mali, we mobilized the Franco-German Brigade as part of the European mission tasked with training the armed forces. We are aware of the institutional constraints with which our German friends take these decisions: we appreciate this commitment all the more because of it. In Ukraine, we are working together to seek a political solution. In order to achieve it, we are ready to make a united contribution to monitoring the ceasefire. In Iraq and Syria, we are making a concerted response to the terrorists of Daesh [ISIL] at political and logistical level.

Likewise, to combat the scourage of Ebola, we have immediately coordinated our action, deployed medical staff in the difficult areas and released our contributions. In order to send the personnel and aid necessary to the countries affected by the epidemic, our two countries have established an air bridge. In the coming days, we shall have to be ready to mobilize our own and our partners’ capabilities even further in order to address the spread of the epidemic.

Beyond responding to these crises, we are working hand in hand on an international response given the climate challenge threatening the planet. France and Germany are demonstrating that, with different characteristics, unity is possible in order to reach ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Between now and the United Nations climate conference, which France will host in December 2015, and against the background of Germany’s G7 presidency, our two countries will take concerted action to persuade others and make headway on this major issue.

The lesson taught by this joint action is simple: France and Germany bear a special responsibility in Europe, a legacy of history and their influence. In these new circumstances, our two countries must continuously reinvent an effective tandem. Everyone knows that a Europe in which the Franco-German couple were no longer a driving force would lose its momentum. When it comes to the nagging issue of unemployment in particular, we need joint proposals to stimulate investment and growth. If we wish to pursue European integration, if we would like Europe to carry weight in resolving crises, if we want to add to the fine principles of 1789 and 1989, the Franco-German partnership is vital. So it is by combining our strengths and standing shoulder to shoulder for the big decisions that we shall enable our continent to be one of tomorrow’s major players. So it is more necessary than ever for France and Germany to act together for the great European venture, in close contact with our other European partners, just like the partnership forged with Poland in the framework of the Weimar Triangle, which I shall be welcoming to Paris on 24 October.

Finally, on a more personal note, during my last visit to Berlin I took a few moments to admire the city from the windows of the French Embassy. Ahead of me: the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of today’s Germany. In this symbolism of places uniting our two countries, I see the embodiment of the friendship which unites us. A fine image of what constitute our ties: a powerful asset in the uncertain period we are going through. Let us make sure we maintain these strong ties in the face of the multiple-crisis world around us./.

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