Due to the forthcoming footballing encounter between France and Germany on February 6, which is part of the festivities surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty ratified by France and Germany in 1963, this post will look at how relations between countries can be defined and shaped by treaties and agreements and if this is necessary at all.
Treaty to appease the Arch Rival
several centuries and saw both countries waging war against each other, mostly initiated from Germany though. Between 1870 and 1963 there have been 3 wars alone which left the relations between France and Germany strained at best. Adenauer considered the reconciliation with France an important part for West-Germany’s re-integration into Western Europe but also to underline the fact that in future no war will ever begin from German soil again. As Adenauer stepped down in autumn 1963 after losing the majority in the Bundestag, the treaty can thus be seen as the final act in the quest for fulfilment of his work as German chancellor to reconcile the country with its former enemies and neighbours, where possible.
Ever since the French-German relations have had their ups and downs, particularly in the late 1980, fears of a German superpower were widespread after the fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989. It needed a lot of work by Helmut Kohl to convince Francois Mitterrand that Germany will not repeat history, i.e. becoming the pariah of Europe once more. Kohl thus continued Adenauer’s work and added German unification to his tally, something critics of Adenauer accuse him of having failed to pursue resolutely.
As this blog is about the Anglo-German relations, the question that automatically springs to mind, is, how can relations between two former enemies be defined? Admittedly, the anglo-german relations are an entirely different field as both countries enjoyed good relations before and up to 1914 and even between the wars have been rather sympathetic towards each other. The relations have been without any diplomatic hiccup, except Margaret Thatcher’s open anti-German resentments and the Nicolas Ridley affair. Aside those minor issues, there have never been any problems. The fear of a German superpower post October 3 1990 were unfounded as it turned out but these fears were not just experienced in Britain and France but also in Czechoslovakia and Poland surely. This experience is therefore a European one and refers to Germany’s direct neighbours only. The Soviet Union was far more lenient in this matter and in fact it was the cause for German unification as after the declaration of Glasnost and Perestroika by Gorbachev in 1985, the whole of Eastern Europe was subsequently liberated.
Yes, there was another treaty with Poland to guarantee the Oder-Neiße-Line as the Polish-German border but that was a mere formality as this has been accepted since the 1970s.
Another question that came to mind during the festivities. Are relaxed diplomatic relations between two countries a guarantee for football games to happen without constant references being made to the common history of both countries? In other words, the English press coverage of Anglo-German football encounters was rather war orientated (if not obsessed) and climaxed in 1996 while the Franco-Allemand press coverage was tame in comparison. The parallel between these two facts is that France and Germany have signed a treaty for reconciliation while Britain and Germany have not and yet the latter two appear to have a much more relaxed relationship with the odd outbreak of humour in the press coverage. Press coverage in England has not been overly positive with regards to Germany. The rise after the Second World War was described as ‘How mighty are the fallen’ in one newspaper. Instead of mistrust there was observation on the British side with comments that were not particularly friendly. And yet, no agreement, no peace treaty was needed to reconcile Britain and Germany.
Is it therefore better not to have a treaty to re-establish good diplomatic and political relations between two countries? And is this somehow reflected in the press coverage or is this just an Anglo-German thing?
- France, Germany mark Elysee pact (bbc.co.uk)
- Merkel and Hollande dream of EU ‘utopia’ (euobserver.com)
- Newcastle’s French legion add to Villa misery (bbc.co.uk)
- Franco-German motor sputters in crucial euro year (news.terra.com)
- Entente Cordiale (luffymoogan.wordpress.com)
- IHT Rendezvous: France and Germany: ‘No Longer a Couple, but Divorce Is Impossible.’ (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)
- 50 Years After Landmark Treaty, Can France and Germany Save Europe? (world.time.com)
- A Rhine romance: Germany and France celebrate five decades of marriage (guardian.co.uk)