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Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 13:09 GMT
Franco-German revival called for
The 40th anniversary of the Franco-German alliance is celebrated with front-page reports and special editions in French and German newspapers.
In the spirit of friendship between the two countries, France's Liberation has joined hands with its German counterpart Berliner Zeitung, as has Les Echos with Financial Times Deutschland, to mark the occasion.
But many papers feel that the anniversary is necessary to give a new impetus to a friendship which has become somewhat distant over the years.
"Today in Versailles, they will drink to the Franco-German friendship," writes Berlin's Tageszeitung.
But the paper goes on to say that "40 years after the signing of the Elysee treaty neither side has done much to strengthen the relationship".
"Over the past few years, co-operation in the cultural arena and in learning languages has declined dramatically."
Ouest-France, France's largest regional daily, agrees. "Today the French and Germans are less interested in each other. We are learning each others' language less and less. Town-twinnings are dying out. Youth exchanges are on the decline."
The French business paper La Tribune describes relations between Paris and Berlin as "a friendship devoid of ambitions".
Many papers call for the two European giants to strengthen their relationship at the heart of the EU.
Under a picture of General de Gaulle's visit to Bonn in 1962, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung says "the feeling of European unity was stronger then than today".
Paris's Liberation believes that without the Franco-German partnership "Europe will be doomed to shapelessness".
According to the Paris daily Le Parisien, today's celebration "is a way for the two countries to demonstrate their desire to be the bosses in Europe".
"One thing is certain - when France and Germany stand side by side - we're a big group, we carry weight, it looks serious."
Germany's broadsheet Die Zeit also stresses the need for President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder to demonstrate a "European vision".
"If they let the EU fall by the wayside, then neither France nor Germany will be able to withstand global threats," the paper warns.
It warns there is a danger that Paris and Berlin will be forced "to submit to the all-powerful USA".
The French regional daily, Le Progres de Lyon, believes the two countries must act in opposition to the US-UK position on Iraq.
It says that they will have difficulties in finding a common position on the subject, "but with Great Britain saying 'yes, certainly' to the USA, France and Germany will be forced to work together".
Almost all the newspapers list in detail the significant events in relations between the two countries over the past 40 years.
"Jacques Chirac, and particularly Gerhard Schroeder, seem to be savouring the moment," says leading French daily Le Monde.
They see this week's celebrations "as something of an act of revenge for years of being berated for failing to measure up to the mythical pairings of leaders who preceded them at the French-German altar".
Partnerships such as Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, or Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl.
But the German tabloid Bild takes a less conventional look back over history. It lists Bridgette Bardot's marriage to German playboy Gunter Sachs in July 1966 as an indication of Franco-German integration.
In Spain, the Catalan daily La Vanguardia acknowledges that France and Germany wield "considerable influence" on Europe's destiny, but notes "they are not the only protagonists".
It also argues that "the human factor has been transcendental" in Franco-German ties, pointing to the close personal relationships between their respective leaders over time.
Italy's La Stampa takes issue with the Franco-German proposal for a double EU presidency, describing it as "a rare mess".
"It is a go-ahead for impasse and conflict in the EU. Can Europe function like that? Can it make difficult decisions and gain the consensus of citizens? Unlikely."
"This is no moment for uncertainty: Rome can play a key role in defusing the double presidency proposed by Chirac and Schroeder."
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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