France and Germany to celebrate 60th anniversary of postwar reconciliation

Macron and Scholz disagree on many things, but both want the European Union to succeed

France and Germany will on Sunday celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of the Élysée, which sealed their post-second World War reconciliation. About 300 French and German parliamentarians will convene at the Pantheon, the grand amphitheatre of the Sorbonne and in the chamber of the National Assembly.

President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz will address the parliamentarians before moving to the Élysée Palace for a joint council of ministers.

The council of ministers will discuss three themes: economic, energy, environmental and industrial challenges; matters of strategy and security; and the future of Europe. The relevant ministers will chair each session.

Macron and Scholz will hold a press conference before dining together.


The day’s events follow a low point in Franco-German relations last October, when the annual council of ministers had to be postponed because there were too many outstanding disagreements.

“I don’t know if one can speak of improvement [over the last three months],” an adviser to Macron said. “In any case, relations were never broken. We made progress on strategic objectives thanks to a lunch between the president and chancellor at the end of October.”

In the intervening months, the ministers for finance, defence, foreign and European affairs shuttled back and forth between Paris and Berlin preparing for the anniversary.

France and Germany broke the stalemate in defence projects in December, when they agreed to build a prototype of the Future Combat Air System, the fighter jet which France and Germany are developing with Spain. To the despair of the French, Germany has in the meantime purchased US F-35 fighter jets.

Also in December, European Union energy ministers agreed to limit excessive gas prices, a French demand for months. Germany, which was far more reliant on Russian gas, had been reluctant because it feared that a price limit would threaten security of supplies.

Nor is Germany enthusiastic about Macron’s plan for joint procurement of gas supplies by the EU. The “platform” created at French instigation has not yet made a single purchase.

Large cartoons on the wall of the German embassy on Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt and on the fence surrounding the construction site across the street speak volumes about the ambiguities of the Franco-German relationship.

The mural outside the embassy shows a French man in a beret embracing a German wearing a Tyrolean hat. The two hold their national flags and a birthday cake with candles. It reads: “60 Years of Franco-German Friendship.”

The fence around the Grand Palais museum, which is undergoing extensive renovation, runs around a whole city block. A cartoon history of the monument adorns the fence. It cannot be mere coincidence that the segment facing the German embassy commemorates an exhibition about Nazi war crimes and the Nuremburg trials, complete with drawings of a swastika, the symbol of the SS division and a bathtub which the Nazis used for torture.

More than 80 years after they fought the deadliest war in world history, 60 years after Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer consecrated their reconciliation, the French and Germans are still not sure how to define their relationship.

Hubert Védrine, who was a key official at the Élysée through François Mitterrand’s presidency, then foreign minister under Jacques Chirac, objects to the oft-heard term Franco-German couple. “There has been no Franco-German couple since [German] reunification,” Védrine says. “One could talk about couples for de Gaulle and Adenauer, Giscard and Schmidt, Mitterrand and Kohl. After that, we should drop the word. It’s too warm and fuzzy … We need to move on. Stop the commemorations.”

A senior German diplomat says his compatriots use the term engine rather than couple for the Franco-German relationship. “After all, we are engineers,” he laughs. “Perhaps the world ‘couple’ is more accurate, because there is a lot of emotion and there are a lot of differences.”

One may argue that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted long-standing differences between France and Germany and created new ones. Au contraire, says the German diplomat: the war has brought them closer together.

“No one talks any more about the brain death of Nato,” the diplomat says, referring to Macron’s shock statement in November 2019. “It is totally clear that Nato and the US play a fundamental role, because without them, Ukraine would no longer exist.”

The diplomat sees a convergence of views with France regarding the dangers facing Europe. Scholz now talks about a “geopolitical Europe”, he notes, a term Germany had shunned since the war.

Macron and Scholz will on Sunday resemble an ageing couple renewing their vows. There is no chemistry between them. They disagree on a host of issues.

To name but a few bones of contention: Germany’s leadership of the European Sky Shield air defence system, with 14 EU countries, the US and Israel; German opposition to a proposal by Thierry Breton, the French EU commissioner for the internal market, for a European sovereign fund to finance European resistance to the US Inflation Reduction Act; German pique at being excluded from the H2Med pipeline, which is set to transport (still hypothetical) green hydrogen energy from Spain to France.

The French grumble about what they see as German domination of the European Commission. They reproach Scholz for placing highest priority on relations with Washington.

Yet like an ageing couple, they agree on one essential thing: the importance of preserving and improving the EU. That goal will be the heart of the ceremonies in Paris.