Lawmakers from Germany and France have pledged new efforts in strengthening cooperation between the two countries. The announcement coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty.
The joint session of the German and French parliaments, the Bundestag and the Assemblee nationale, respectively, served as the highpoint of Tuesday's celebrations of peaceful cooperation between the two countries. While leaders spoke of economic ties at length, they also focused attention on the significance of the treaty for youth.
"The young people of our countries have the great fortune to have never known anything but peace and democracy," Hollande told German and French lawmakers at the Bundestag, adding that all cooperation between the two allies must go on for the sake of the youths now facing "an economic and social crisis of unprecedented duration."
Fifty years ago, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and President Charles de Gaulle signed the Elysee Treaty on January 22, 1963 - the cornerstone of modern peace between two countries that had fought three wars in less than a century.
"This friendship isn't exclusive. It doesn't shut anybody out. It's open," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "[This friendship] must take Europe along for the ride because Europe wants to progress with us."
"We are the ones who have to show the way," she said.
Later, the Bundestag president, Norbert Lammert, told the joint assembly to consider the scope of Franco-German cooperation.
"This growing together may not be reduced to economic and currency question, but must, above all, give the youths of Europe a new perspective for education, occupation and growth," Lammert said.
Lawmakers pledged to form bilateral committees with the aim of launching a range of initiatives. Projects include education programs that promoted academic exchanges and language learning, greater work toward renewable energy and closer talks regarding European Union policies.
Pledge to strengthen the eurozone
Earlier on Tuesday, Merkel and Hollande announced their pledge to draft a joint proposal to strengthen the eurozone. The economic iniatives would be presented before a European Union summit in the early summer, they told reporters at the press conference.
The initiatives, which the leaders plan to present in May, would focus on "stabilizing and deepening" the monetary union through jobs, growth and competitiveness, Merkel said.
"France and Germany have a share of the responsibility," Hollande said.
While the leaders differ on their economic policies - Merkel having earned a reputation for supporting deep-cutting austerity measures in debt-stricken countries and Hollande for levying harsh tax measures on France's wealthiest citizens - the German chancellor contended that she and her French counterpart have worked together well.
"It may be our best-kept secret that the chemistry actually works," Merkel said.
The allies' recent cooperation in the military intervention in Mali played a less significant role during Tuesday's celebrations. Hollande thanked Germany for its logistical support in the North African conflict, and Merkel reiterated her country's willingness to stand at France's side.
kms/hc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)