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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 12:48 GMT
France and Germany: Is their relationship good for Europe?
As Germany and France's opposition to war mounts, the two countries' top officials met on Wednesday to hold a joint session of parliament and unveil major joint political initiatives.
The meeting to commemorate the 1963 Elysee Treaty - which cemented Franco-German - ties came as both countries add to the growing opposition to military action amongst permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Germany has declared it will not support a UN resolution authorising war against Iraq, while France has added to the demands of other key allies for more time to be given to the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq.
The tones of opposition may force the US to eventually conclude that it does not have enough support within the Security Council to guarantee the nine votes needed to pass a resolution authorising military action.
Is France and Germany's close relationship good for Europe? What impact will their opposition to war have?
This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The alliance is bad in one way. It gives the image in Britain that the UK is being isolated and the French and the Germans want to press their agenda on the British. It may not be true but the union creates deep mistrust and may affect the other countries' dealings with the EU.
The rapprochement between France and Germany is an admirable thing. However, I would like to know what Italy, Spain and the smaller European nations think. Is Franco-German dominance of the EU welcomed? I think the answer may be "no".
William Sutton, Quesnel, BC, Canada
Americans have never been fond of Global Socialism, the way many in Europe seem to view the world. Americans have always been very independent in thinking as individuals and as a nation, for better or for worse. You will find most Americans could care less what France and Germany do.
In truth, Germany and France will never develop the relationship the US/UK have shared, for they have little foundation to build on with their socialist governments as they have neither the economic nor military power to compete with the influence the US has in Europe and around the world. Their socialist systems cost too much for them to be even a poor legitimate alternative. The US economy and military is just too vast and overwhelming.
"Do something before it's too late" is NOT "Attack before it's too late". If one can claim that attacking Iraq is legitimate given the present 'indication' that they will do some horror in the future, Iraq probably has full rights to attack US now 'before it's too late'.
If US could foresee the future so clearly, they should have not trained and supported significantly arm the Iraqi forces in the past...
I salute Germany and France for their bold, intelligent stance on Iraq. If only the UK had the guts to stand up to the US like the majority of its population want it to. France and Germany have a healthy vision of a strong united Europe that has learned lessons from the past about the futility and tragedy of conflict, and wants to create a successful and strong union with its neighbours. The US is a 'baby' nation with a lot of money, weapons and big ideas about ruling the world. Personally I find it deeply embarrassing that my Euro neighbours may think I support that nonsense, just because I'm British. Europe unite!!
These two countries (France & Germany) have a vision of Europe that Britain has so far never been able to share, entangled as it is with its "blind" special relationship to the USA.
Their present position towards the Iraq issue is based on legitimacy. Contrary to what their detractors pretend, their diplomatic efforts are likely to strengthen the role of the United Nations (Think what would become of the UN if the war broke without a UN mandate!) All in all, France & Germany plead for a delay in order to give peace a chance. Is it so bad? Is it so unwise? I do hope that wise governments will share their views to prevent any hasty military intervention that might prove disastrous.
Pascal Bessong, France
Of course it is a good thing for Germany and France to have close ties and to even improve them. I think so because of various reasons: Firtsly, there is no other way to go if you want to make such a thing as WW II impossible. Secondly, both the French and the German people want live in a united Europe and, let's just face it, there is no one up to the challenge of uniting this Europe except France and Germany.
By the way, the improvement of ties between France and Germany, there will be a counterweight to the US world hegemony, which I personally regard as very important.
What is everybody so afraid of? If Germany and France are leading forces in Europe it's because they are showing some interest and faith in a united future. Rather than feeling alienated the UK should feel encouraged to join the euro-spirit.
Tridiv Borah, Germany/India
France and Germany's opposition to going after Saddam Hussein is really quite ironic. After all, it was the British-American alliance that saved the French from Hitler. It was the British-American alliance that prevented Stalin from overtaking West Germany, and kept Berlin free during the Airlift. It was British-American intelligence sharing, and the US defence umbrella, that protected France and Germany from Khrushchev during the Cold War.
Despite the short-sightedness and the cowardly rhetoric of these Continental appeasers, I'm confident that Britain and America will continue to defend against brutal dictators who seek to terrorize free nations.
The friendship between France and Germany is the base of the European Union, without them the EU couldn't work like they do today. There are no other countries in Europe who could take over this work. Great Britain and Tony Blair is sitting between two chairs, the US on the one side and Europe (mainly France and Germany) on the other. Because of that they do not have the importance in Europe and in the world as they could have, the British are to afraid of taking a clear decision. A united Europe will have more power in the future and with Britain it would have even more.
The fact is closer integration between countries in Europe has led to 50 years of peace, and a foundation for lasting peace. Countries which need each other and work together economically are far less likely to ever go to war with each other. These countries should be applauded for how they have overcome the demons of the past, not chastised. The shame of you anti-euros! As for fear of being run by mainland Europe, excuse me? Don't we have Vice President Tony Blair doing anything the USA wants of him?
I think the cooperation is more important to the French and Germans than the actual subject they are cooperating over. The two countries have long considered Europe's rightful place in the world as a single powerful entity ready to challenge the US and Russia and they both want to be in the driving seat when that entity finally pops into existence. The European federation is just around the corner and so is the end of Britain as a functioning sovereign democracy. We should cooperate with the US and abandon The EU. At least the US gets things done.
In the same way that I wouldn't criticise anyone for turning a blind eye and not intervening in a street mugging, I wouldn't criticise a nation for not acting against a murderous dictator - I'd just think less of them. So too for France and Germany.
Having close relations among old foes are always a good sign and what a wonderful thing it will be if India and Pakistan decided to do the same. In this Uni-polar world this is a good thing for, not only the Europeans but also the world in general to balance the unilateralism of the US. I believe this is the starting point and sooner or later the other EU nations will realize that it is the only way to survive.
If the UK hadn't been so Eurosceptic throughout the eighties it would be France, Germany and Britain guiding Europe. The Eurosceptics doomed us and will continue to doom us to obscurity unless we get with the programme and start fully participating in Europe.
The European Union is rapidly turning into a Franco-German empire.
The way that important policies are stitched up between the pair of them in advance of any formal conference makes a mockery of democracy.
It's wonderful that there are European countries who are standing up to their beliefs and not blindly following President Bush's war propaganda. It gives the rest of the world some hope for peace.
The average Frenchman in the street cares little about Germany or its culture. Less and less pupils in France are studying German as a first language and the picture in Germany is similar. In reality this much-publicised event has two political objectives - to defy the US/UK alliance and to show the rest of the enlarged EU that the French/German axis still intends to run the show.
This is rather a daft question (sorry BBC) as cooperation between France and Germany is the cornerstone of the EU. Remember the European Coal and Steel Community?
On this issue France and Germany are largely irrelevant as there is no way that Germany will become involved in offensive military action abroad, and France has enough problems of her own with the Ivory Coast.
What the French and Germans are demonstrating is the value of International Cooperation as they always punch far above their weight.
I am happy about the recent news coming from France. France and Germany have much more in common than most other countries in Europe. The closer the relationship, the better it is for both countries and the rest of the world (except from some people who want to use our countries as instruments for their very own interests). Both countries are much more sensitive in diplomacy than the recent US government and their British supporters.
There appears to be a completely irrational fear in the UK of any coming together of nations which doesn't involve the UK. It's perfectly fine for the UK to ally with the US and anyone else, but hypocritically other countries are demonised for doing likewise.
France and Germany have always cooperated closely and will continue to do, just as the US and UK have. What is sometimes lacking is a middle man in both these scenarios, something that France and Germany are doing regarding Iraq. For those that complain about so close ties between two these countries I suggest that they become more involved and therefore more able to influence European policy. The UK has a chance to be a leading force in Europe should it wish to commit. I hope it does, but either way Europe will move forward.
Simon O'Brien, UK
Some of the comments coming from the US sound like they are afraid of an equal. Up to now America has dominated world policy and it is only healthy, that Europe is building an equally strong voice. I wish though, that the UK would commit itself more to the European Union and play the part of an equal under equals.
If not for the efforts of the USA in World War II France would not exist. If not for the efforts of the USA in the Cold War Germany would not exist. I believe both nations resent being reminded of those facts. They were quick to support US foreign policy when it was their own chestnuts in the fire. Actually I am happy to see them take a stand and say "no" to the US position on Iraq. I wish they would take the next step and say "no" to US foreign aid and US Troops. But they won't; two paper tigers thumbing their noses but afraid to let go of momma's apron strings. Maybe the US will wake up now and send these fair-weather friends packing.
Of course German and French cooperation is important. However, it carries dangers as well - witness the Franco-German stitch up of the common agricultural policy recently - great for them but not so good for their European partners.
No it is not. They have their own distinct vision of how Europe should go forward, and are riding roughshod over the views of the other 13 members. The European Union looks less and less like a partnership of nations now.
The relationship between France and Germany will only be unhealthy should another strong European country insist on be closer aligned to the United States. This other state should pay close attention to France, Germany and the other European states, which its legally bound to, rather than flirt with its domineering mistress from across the Atlantic!!
France and Germany should be the driving force in Europe, because there is nobody else who could replace them. When the German/Franco "engine" began to stutter, no other countries seemed to be willing to take the leading role instead. But I think Britain would be very welcome here.
It had better be good for Europe. Germany blew up its bridges to America and the French are about to light the fuse to theirs.
It's highly hypocritical but hardly surprising for Germany and France to accuse the US of trying to run the world and then deciding between them how Europe is to be run. The way they act, nobody else has anything to say about it. It doesn't matter. It appears that the handwriting is on the wall for the demise of the EU and the euro.
France and Germany's close relationship is not only good for Europe but also a must particularly after 9/11. The impact of their opposition on war will not be effective in the short run but it would be in the long run especially in any new events in the future.
Forget history, the French and Germans might be treading on a few political sensitivities but they are true trailblazers when in comes to actually trying to cooperate intelligently. If Blair and Bush won't let them in on why there should be a war then I fully understand, and support, their scepticism at the UN. France and Germany are Europe's conscience as Blair won't listen to his own people.
It wasn't good for Europe when they were enemies. As for their opposition to another Gulf War, one is anti any war and the other has been the greatest appeaser in recent history and left everybody else to pick up the pieces when it all went horribly wrong. Also neither of them are at the forefront in intelligence gathering and the US/UK wisely won't share what they know with them. In view of this their views can't carry too much weight.
Of course the relationship between France and Germany is good for Europe! Without these two states we wouldn't have a united Europe!
France and Germany run Europe. No one else matters.
I think it's very good that countries in Europe are getting closer to each other. However it would be a shame if they 'forget' to include the other countries who helped found the EU like the Benelux.
This recommitment to the Franco-German axis will drive a wedge through the UN Security Council, and make it harder for the US and Britain to get UN backing for war against Iraq - it's a deliberate show of political muscle. Britain and the US should tell them where to go.
As a Canadian living in Germany for over 25 years, I find the rapprochement between France and Germany extremely important. In view of both countries' past history, this is the only way to go. Any worries voiced by other EU countries need to be listened to, however. The EU can only function if all members have the same chances and the same treatment. Nonetheless, at many levels more rapprochement is desirable - let's see more cooperation among neighbouring regions independently of national governments.
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