The sorrow shared over last week's plane crash has brought France and Germany closer together. At inter-government consultations in Berlin, President Hollande invoked their deep friendship.
When the French use the word "fraternité" - brotherhood - they are referring to a lofty virtue that unites the nation. The fact that President Hollande spoke of the "fraternité franco-allemande" in Berlin, of the especially deep relationship between the countries, can therefore be understood as a sign of great esteem.
The "Franco-German friendship" is routinely praised, and sometimes it is simply a turn of phrase. But the crises of the last several weeks have proven how close and how resilient this friendship in fact is: the attacks on the Parisian satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" in January, and last week's Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps have brought forth a wave of solidarity and empathy.
At a joint press conference with Hollande in Berlin on Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the French had welcomed victim's relatives with "big, open hearts," and had filled the Franco-German friendship with life in an "inimitable way." Together Merkel and Hollande thanked the emergency workers and specialists, who, according to the French president, will have identified all 150 crash victims by the end of the week.
Europe comes together
Hollande came to Berlin as part of a series of meetings between the two governments' cabinets, and was received by Merkel at the chancellery with military honors. After rather cool, reserved beginnings, the Social Democrat Hollande and the Christian, conservative Merkel now work closely together, and in a friendly fashion.
The fact that in these difficult times Germany and France are not only coming together emotionally, but also politically, is evidenced by numerous decisions made by Berlin and Paris - such as the announcement that the two countries, and Italy, will jointly develop a new surveillance drone - an area where Europe has fallen far behind the United States.
Referring to Germany, Merkel stated that the drones "could eventually be weaponized if deemed necessary by a parliamentary vote." Hollande emphasized that this important decision makes Europe independent in drone production, as well as in its access to the air-based situational imagery that has become so important for security today.
Putting pressure on Athens
Merkel and Hollande are displaying unity in European politics as well: both warned that Greece must quickly concretize reform proposals before there can be a deal with the EU about further financing. "Time is running out," said Merkel.
Both leaders also summed up progress in the nuclear treaty talks with Iran similarly: the goal is not an agreement at any price. Merkel and Hollande both emphasized that such a treaty must above all guarantee that Iran cannot arm itself with nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Ongoing negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland kept both countries' foreign ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius, from attending the common meeting of both cabinets in Berlin.
The governments also agreed to facilitate several improvements for Germans who live in France and vice versa. Among these is the recognition of academic degrees between the neighboring countries, as well as the taxation of retirees where they live rather than according to nationality. As the French president explained, Germany and France not only want to work together for positive change in international politics, they also want to make it practically easier for their citizens to live together.