The five hidden beauties of the Franco-German Treaty of Aix-La-Chapelle

(B2) After a few general points, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle should be read carefully. This one conceals some hidden beauties that deserve attention, especially in terms of defense and diplomacy.

(credit: Aachen)

The Coronation Hall of Aachen Town Hall, which this Tuesday (January 22) welcomes Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron under the coat of arms of Charlemagne, which unites the French lily with the eagle German, would undoubtedly have deserved a little more enthusiasm and explanations.

Like a sluggish old diesel, which spits out more slag than energy, the Aix-la-Chapelle Treaty, which comes on top of the good old Elysée Treaty of 1963, lacks a major project that could make our sleeping nations vibrate a little. He often remains limited in his ambition, marked by a whole series of reservations, hesitating between emphasis and cautious realism, and ultimately less concrete than his elder.

But we must not stop at a first overview, naturally critical. This text also conceals several virtues which it is important to detail. Many seemingly innocuous commitments will give their authors a lot of trouble to be implemented to the end. Not highlighting them would be a mistake.

A strategic virtue: the Franco-German couple in Europe

The first strategic virtue of this text is to resituate Franco-German in the current context. It makes it possible to affirm, loud and clear, how much the necessary cooperation between Paris and Berlin is necessary and useful not only for the French and the Germans, but also for the Europeans.

With the departure of the United Kingdom, France and Germany remain more than ever the two main powers of the European Union, bringing together nearly one in three Europeans. It is in this context that the French and Germans now situate their action and no longer only in their dialogue intuitu personae. This is the fundamental element that distinguishes, 56 years apart, the writing of the Elysée from that of Aix-la-Chapelle. " The close friendship between France and Germany remains an indispensable element of a united, efficient, sovereign and strong European Union is it indicated.

The word Europe is inscribed at every turn, so regularly combined with all the policies, that one would almost forget it. Thus Paris and Berlin undertake to "strengthen their cooperation" in matters of foreign policy, defense or internal security "while strengthening Europe's ability to act independentlye ”. In terms of defence, they undertake both "to strengthen Europe's capacity for actione " like a “invest together to fill capacity gapsires” in industrial projects, etc.

A common approach between the two armies

The second virtue of this text is to put the cursor on some difficulties that prevent progress. He thus intends to lay the foundations for a closer common approach between the French and German armies. Willingness " to establish a common culture" is asserted, just like that « to operate joint deployments ». This was already the spirit of the Elysée Treaty, at least for the doctrinal part.

But it cannot be said that the following achievements, in particular the creation of the Franco-German brigade, produced the expected effect. The " doctrines of intervention remain different. Even if French and Germans often find themselves on the same grounds (Afghanistan, Mali…), these are often juxtaposed deployments (at best!) than joint deployments. Getting there will require a lot of effort on both sides: for the French it will be necessary to be a little more patient and inclusive and for the Germans to be a little more voluntary and… efficient. It's a real challenge. " It is not easy as Angela Merkel says.

Defining a common armaments policy

Third 'hidden beauty': the establishment of a common approach to arms exports ». It's not won either. The German rules are stricter than the French rules. And the national political context across the Rhine is more sensitive to certain exports than in France. But it is both a political and an economic necessity.

Admittedly, this approach is valid only for joint projects », and each country will remain master at home for purely national projects. But, at least for heavy investments, joint investment will become the rule. Between the military transport aircraft, A400M, the Tiger attack helicopters or the NH90 transport helicopters, the future heavy tank, the aircraft of the future (after Rafale) and the European surveillance drone (Eurodrone MALE), they not miss. Failure to define a common export rule would jeopardize certain common industrial projects.

An alternative solidarity clause

Fourth commitment: the common will to defend the borders of the other if it were to be attacked. The countries intend to guarantee each other " aid and possible assistance in the event of an armed attack on their territories ". This " by all means at their disposal, including armed force ". Nothing new in appearance. It is the repetition of the framework of the so-called mutual defense or mutual assistance clauses taken within the framework of NATO or the European Union, with all the necessary limits. Mutual assistance is only triggered in the event of a very serious event: an armed attack, coming from outside, on the 'European' territory of one of the two countries. This clause is therefore above all " symbolic and political as a senior officer told me. To see something totally useless in it is however a mistake. It is rather a 'double' insurance, which would only have to be activated if, for one reason or another, NATO were paralyzed. In military matters, the superfluous is sometimes necessary...

Advocate for reform of the UN Security Council

Last virtue of the text, defending the German claim to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. This is not illogical given the economic and political weight of Germany. This progress is however linked to a more global reform of the United Nations Security Council that the two countries are committed to pushing. It is in fact a gift made to the coalition in power in Berlin which has made this presence one of the key points of its foreign policy. Paris therefore does not intend to give up its permanent seat on the Security Council and its right of veto. It is one of the springs of the hexagonal diplomatic power. We are here faced with contradictions in the Franco-German relationship that will have to be resolved tomorrow.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

article published by our colleagues at EURACTIV

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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