Stanley's blog

My 5 March posting commented on Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy making up after a period of strained relations. In a discussion yesterday, the sustainability of this rapprochement was questioned. The personal chemistry of the current Franco-German couple is unlikely to lead to the relationship matching that of several of its predecessors, but Franco-German cooperation is not dependent on this.

The extent of the institutionalization of the cooperation is frequently not realized. Its basis is the Elysée Treaty of 1963 and has steadily grown since then. The Franco-German Council, which meets twice-yearly, involves the entire government – perhaps 100-150 ministers and civil services. In addition, the two leaders meet regularly. Ministries have ongoing bilateral relations, including secondments.

While harmony at the top is a fillip, personal disharmony does not weaken the structure of the relationship.

From the outset, France and German reconciliation was a key motivation of European integration and the leadership of the two countries has led to most major European initiatives. It has always been in their interests to compromise in order to agree a common position, which has so often led to an EU accord. That influence is necessarily less in a Union of 27 but policies are still rarely agreed without the support of France and Germany.

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