Successful political pairs before ′Merkozy′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.05.2012
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Successful political pairs before 'Merkozy'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who formed such close ties with Nicolas Sarkozy that the pair was dubbed "Merkozy," must now forge a consensus with French president, Francois Hollande.

A carnival float with Merkel embracing Sarkozy

Even the German carnival saw Merkel and Sarkozy as a pair

An intimate walk along the beach at Deauville, conspiratorial meetings and conversations on the telephone, meaningful glances at press conferences - those images come to mind when thinking of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy - together, they were dubbed "Merkozy."

People will remember how the two leaders spent nights poring over the solution to the eurozone crisis and jointly tried to put Europe back on track.

But those times are past: Sarkozy lost the French presidential election to contender Francois Hollande and it remains to be seen whether "Merkozy" can become "Merkollande."

'Merkozy' is history

Finding a name for symbiotic leaders is not new: the media came up with "Schmitterand" when Socialist President Francois Mitterand supported German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a Social Democrat, on the 1979 NATO Double-Track Decision.

But Franco-German leaders of differing political persuasions worked even more closely together because in effect, the basic differences between the two countries are good for European cooperation, Claire Demesmay of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) told DW. "We work well together because we represent different positions and can thus stand for the entire EU."

Illusion of closeness

Robert Schuman ehemaliger Außenminister Frankreich

Robert Schuman, the 'father' of Europe

German and French Conservatives are as dissimilar as are German and French Socialists and Social Democrats. French Socialists, for instance, have a completely different view of the role of the European Central Bank (ECB) than German Social Democrats. "When those leaders cooperate, there's always the risk of creating an illusion of closeness and that can lead to misunderstandings," Demesmay said. She argues that the ability to compromise is an important requisite.

Franco-German friendship is and always has been the foundation of European integration. In 1950, former French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, also the first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly, declared: "The joining together of European nations requires eradicating the centuries' old antagonism between France and Germany. The task we have begun must first and foremost comprise Germany and France."

Deutschland Frankreich Konrad Adenauer Charles de Gaulle Elysee Vertrag

Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle sign the Elysée Treaty

German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer at first faced two independent leaders, Rene Coty and Vincent Auriol, followed by Charles de Gaulle. "Adenauer and de Gaulle initiated reconciliation between the two states, they laid the foundation for Franco-German relations and thus for Europe," Demesmay said. In 1963, the leaders signed the Elysee Treaty, the cornerstone of Franco-German cooperation in foreign, security and European policy.

Relations between de Gaulle and his German colleagues Kurt Georg Kiesinger and Ludwig Erhardt were not as close despite the fact that all three were conservatives; neither were ties between Germany's Social Democratic Chancellor Willy Brandt and French conservative President Georges Pompidou.

Talks beside the fireplace

1974 ushered in a new era in Franco-German relations. Helmut Schmidt was German Chancellor, Valery Giscard d'Estaing the President of France. The leaders faced the oil crisis and its consequences and followed similar economic and trade strategies, despite their different political backgrounds. Schmidt and Giscard d'Estaing launched the G7 informal talks beside the fireplace at the Chateau de Rambouillet in northern France, the summer residence of the French presidents. They laid the foundation for a European currency system that led to the creation of a common currency, the euro.

Francois Mitterrand bei Helmut Kohl in Verdun Frankreich

Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl in Verdun

The relationship between both countries intensified further still with Helmut Kohl as German Chancellor and Francois Mitterrand as French President, who were again two statesmen with very different political backgrounds. They laid the foundation for important European political principles and bodies. Implementation of basic economic freedoms - free transport of goods and services, free movement of travelers and free capital and monetary transactions - created the European single market, which still forms the economic basis of the European Union today.

Reconciliation, cooperation, and friendship

The EU was founded in 1992 with the Maastricht treaty - still in the Kohl-Mitterrand era. Both countries also expanded their security policy cooperation as laid out in the Elysee treaty. Since 1988, the Franco-German Security and Defense Council has been held twice a year, where both countries' foreign and defense ministers meet with the French Chief of the General Staff and the Bundeswehr's Inspector General. Simultaneously, the bilateral economic and finances council was founded. And on the battlefield in Verdun, the two statesmen confronted their countries' difficult past together.

Dr. Claire Demesmay

Claire Demesmay of the German Council on Foreign Relations

The era of Jacques Chirac on the French and Gerhard Schröder on the German side saw yet more institutionalization of cooperation between France and Germany. Since 2001, the two countries' heads of government have been getting together roughly every eight weeks for so-called Blaesheim meetings. All the same, the two are said to have disagreed on major issues like the Treaty of Nice and the reform of the European institutions.

France expert Claire Demesmay believes that most Franco-German heads of governments in the end developed some kind of a friendship - but, she said, this was not a prerequisite for good collaboration between the two countries.

Author: Daphne Grathwohl / db / nh
Editor: Michael Lawton

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