France and Germany mark Elysee pact's 50th anniversary

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 22 January Mr Hollande and Mrs Merkel posed in front of the Brandenburg Gate

Related Stories

France and Germany are marking the 50th anniversary of a treaty that helped to reconcile the two former foes.

French President Francois Hollande told a joint session of their parliaments in Berlin that a generation had grown up knowing only peace and democracy.

But he warned that they faced "an economic and social crisis of unprecedented duration".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the two states would work on deeper economic and fiscal integration.

The Elysee Treaty was signed by Charles de Gaulle of France and Germany's Konrad Adenauer on 22 January 1963.

Despite ups and downs in the relationship, Berlin and Paris have been key shapers of the European Union.

De Gaulle described Europe as "a coach and horses, with Germany the horse and France the coachman", and the co-operation between the two nations has been the foundation stone of the European project, the BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says.

This will be a festival of friendship.

The relationship on many levels is remarkably deep. There have been eight million student exchanges between the two countries. More than 2,000 French and German towns have a partnership. The political links are equally strong, but at times tempestuous.

This week's celebrations cannot disguise that the current relationship is strained. The core of the problem is that the two countries are no longer equals. Economic success has made Germany Europe's indispensable power.

But for all the current strains it is France and Germany who will continue to shape the future of the EU - with or without the UK.

'Working chemistry'

At a joint news conference, France's Socialist president addressed his political differences with Germany's conservative leader.

"It has not escaped you that we do not belong to the same political family," he said.

"Despite that, if you look back at the past eight months, I'm very happy with what France and Germany have been able to accomplish to get the eurozone out of its crisis.

"If you look at the results, it's clear we're on the same wavelength."

Mrs Merkel replied: "It may be our best-kept secret that the chemistry actually works."

The two leaders also met figures from the arts world at the French embassy in Berlin.

Wim Wenders, the German film director, recalled his links to France: "I am a child of this friendship even if it was more exciting when I was young.

"My first car was a [Citroen] 2CV and I studied in Paris."

Today, the 67-year-old added, "there is a certain indifference but that doesn't surprise me after 50 years of marriage".

To celebrate what has been described as a festival of friendship, France and Germany are issuing stamps, coins and other items of memorabilia.

French flags are flying beside those of Germany in Berlin.

50 years of friendship

  • The 1963 Elysee Treaty was a milestone for France and Germany, who had fought three bloody wars in 70 years
  • The two became the "motor" behind EU integration and enlargement
  • Diplomatically, they stood together in opposition to the Iraq invasion of 2003
  • Since the creation of the Franco-German Brigade, a battalion of German troops has been based in Illkirch in eastern France
  • The two have recently differed over French foreign policy, such as intervention in Mali, and the austerity/growth debate inside the eurozone

However, the two countries remain at odds on several issues, including how to deal with the eurozone crisis.

President Hollande - who is pushing for fresh spending to bolster growth - believes that the Germans are wrong to place such emphasis on austerity and cutting deficits.

On Mr Hollande's side there is also still bitterness that Chancellor Merkel backed Nicolas Sarkozy so openly during last year's French presidential elections, our editor says.

The ongoing crisis in Mali is also likely to test the two countries' relationship.

While Paris has deployed troops in the west African nation to halt the advance of Islamist insurgents, Berlin has been reluctant to be drawn deeply into the conflict.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories


Features & Analysis

  • BeefaloBeefalo hunt

    The hybrid animal causing havoc in the Grand Canyon

  • Actor Jackie Chan gestures as he stands on the set of his new movie 'Around the World in 80 Days' on 6 May, 2003 in Berlin, GermanyDuang duang duang

    How a new word 'broke the Chinese internet'

  • Sound of Music PosterFar from a flop

    Even Sound of Music film crew surprised by success

  • Don Roberto Placa Quiet Don

    The world's worst interview - with one of the loneliest men on Earth

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • KnucklesGood or bad?

    For many it can be very satisfying to 'crack' the bones in your hand, but is it bad for you?


  • 3D model of Christ the Redeemer statueClick Watch

    Using drones to 3D map the famous Brazilian landmark Christ the Redeemer

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.