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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.
Robert, UK

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".
Vernon Moyse, UK

These are nations that know the suffering war brings.

William Sutton, Canada
I think the fact that both France and Germany agree, and have lived in peaceful co-existence can be seen as a lesson for present and future conflict. Could anyone possibly imagine these two parties in such a state 60 years ago? The sanctions on Iraq are just as destructive and criminal as our Naval blockades of the first and second world wars that starved Germany's civilian population. This agreement between France and Germany will be an event that history will remember. These are nations that know the suffering war brings. I commend them for standing up against the American desire for war in Iraq. I hope that they are the first of many world leaders to take this stance.
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.
Tony, USA

"Do something before it's too late" is not "Attack before it's too late".

TS, Switzerland
It is quite encouraging and extremely important that countries like Germany and France are opposing the potential 'attack' on Iraq. People seem to misunderstand that, and believe that taking an anti-war position means supporting Iraq, and treat those as their enemy. This is a fundamental problem of US that is preventing it from undertaking any positive, patient, and successful foreign diplomacy.

"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...
TS, Switzerland

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!!
Andy, UK

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.
Lautenbacher Jean-Philippe, France/Finland

I see this alliance failing to put pressure on Iraq

Pascal Bessong, France
The cooperation between France and Germany holds for good, especially for the peoples of the two nations. However, I hope the Franco-German alliance will be bold enough to call a spade a spade in international matters. I see this alliance failing to put pressure on Iraq to respect UN resolutions to disarm. Instead France and Germany move around talking about the consequences of war. Who is not aware of them? Instead of chastising Saddam, they are opposing the chief fire fighters.
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.
Fabian Klein, Germany

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.
P.A.P., Europe

Thank god there are leaders who have the courage and foresight to uphold human values

Tridiv Borah, Germany/India
My highest tribute to the German and French governments. We are living in an era where opposition to war is bad, reduction in defence spending is frowned upon, sustainable environmental policies and green ideas are outright nonsense, and where people's opinion means nothing even though they are arrogantly called democracies. Thank god there are leaders who have the courage and foresight to uphold human values. Bring on the new world,
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.
Andrew Macauley, UK

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.
Jan, Germany

These countries should be applauded for how they have overcome the demons of the past

A, UK
I guess it's easy for people to forget Germany's history? Don't you understand why they might be squeamish about wars because of their ancestral history? People are often quick to "remind" others about Hitler, but when Germany maintains its non-aggressive policies, then somehow this is backstabbing!

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?
A, UK

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.
Gareth, UK

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.
Ian Marlow, UK

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.
Robert A. Khin, Burma/Malaysia

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.
Rhiannon, UK

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.
Brian W, U K

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.
Jonathan Smith, USA

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.
Raymond Smyth, France

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.
Robert Christie, England

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.
Jan Drexel, Germany

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.
Shaun, UK

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.
James, Germany

If their leaders oppose war in Iraq it is because they are listening to the views of their electorates

Simon O'Brien, UK
France and German are democracies. If their leaders oppose war in Iraq it is because they are listening to the views of their electorates - would that Bush and Blair would do the same. As for their togetherness being good for Europe - it certainly promotes stability. Never forget that Britain has had numerous chances to make this a three player game but its doomed determination to become another state of the US means it can only look on and whine.
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.
Daniela, Germany

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.
Bruce, USA

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.
Ian, UK

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.
Peter McFarlane, UK

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!!
Andy, Scotland

France and Germany's opposition to war will prove impotent

Eric, USA
France and Germany's close relationship is good for France and Germany, no one else. It's bad for the UK and US. What the UK has feared for centuries is coming to pass, a united European mainland capable of dominating the UK politically. France and Germany's opposition to war will prove impotent, the war is inevitable, what it may cause is the unravelling of the UN. They are making the UN irrelevant, by being unwilling to back up the UN's resolutions. Why have a UN if we have no intention of enforcing its mandates?
Eric, USA

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.
Tino, Germany

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.
Mark, USA

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.
Ahmed, Malaysia

It's heartening to see that not all governments are blown over by the American and British rhetoric

Ramesh, Germany
It's indeed heartening to see that not all governments are blown over by the American and British rhetoric, and that they even speak out against it. The US managed to carry out its Afghanistan operations amidst calls for blood, when most people didn't even have time to think whether or not it was fair. While the Franco-German alliance may not to able to stop the US juggernaut, they may succeed in slowing it down, hopefully giving everyone enough time to contemplate on the fallout of such action.
Ramesh, Germany

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.
Brian, UK

If their combined efforts can bring about a more moderate tone from Bush then good luck to them

Tracey, UK
I don't see how a Franco-German "special relationship" is any more dangerous or damaging than the "special relationship" the UK has with the USA. And if their combined efforts can bring about a more moderate tone from Bush then good luck to them.
Tracey, UK

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.
John, France

Of course the relationship between France and Germany is good for Europe! Without these two states we wouldn't have a united Europe!
Andreas, Germany

France and Germany run Europe. No one else matters.
Mike Allan, England

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.
Stefan Castille, Belgium/Sweden

This recommitment to the Franco-German axis will drive a wedge through the UN Security Council

John, England
This shows just how wrong the Europhile fanatics are, that pandering to the EC simply encourages the French to have things their own way. No matter how hard Blair tries, Britain will never be 'European' enough to influence Germany and France, who have always been the main drivers of the EC, riding roughshod over every other nation. Now they are showing they are determined to ensure nothing will change their dominant positions.

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.
John, England

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.
Douglas Fear, Germany

See also:

22 Jan 03 | Europe
09 Jan 03 | Europe
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