France and Germany pledge to defend each other in new treaty

A new treaty signed by France and Germany on Tuesday reiterates their commitment to support each other, which they have done as NATO members. Angela Merkel also supported the creation of a joint European army.

“The fourth article of the treaty says we, Germany and France, are obliged to support and help each other, including through military force, in case of an attack on our sovereignty,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as she and French President Emmanuel Macron were preparing to sign the new document.

The two leaders on Tuesday arrived in Aachen, a border town historically famous as the seat of power of Charlemagne, the 9th century western European ruler and founder of the Holy Roman Empire which stretched across a large part of European continent.

The date is symbolic too, coming exactly 56 years after their predecessors, Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, signed the Elysee Treaty, which reconciled the two nations that had found themselves on the opposite sides in many wars.

Speaking to journalists, Merkel endorsed the idea advocated by Macron of creating a joint European army.

“We have taken major steps in the field of military cooperation, this is good and largely supported in this house. But I also have to say, seeing the developments of the recent years, that we have to work on a vision to establish a real European army one day.”

She added that the army would not be a counterpart to NATO, the US-led military alliance based on the same principle of mutual military defense. Rather it would complement it, she assured.

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The new Aachen Treaty declares the intention of France and Germany to cooperate in various other areas, including foreign policy, economy, transport and humanitarian issues. The declarations however lack detail on how that will be done.

Among the particular steps outlined in it is the pledge to hold consultations before major European events and agree on joint statements – which France and Germany already do a lot. France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, also pledges it will try to help Germany attain the same status.

The military aspect of cooperation is especially in question. France over the past decade proved to be quite prepared to use force in foreign nations, including joining the UK in NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011, and sending troops to Mali. Germany on its part is for historic reasons allergic to foreign deployments, which are only done with heavy parliamentary oversight. Reconciling the two positions may be a challenging act of balance.

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The Franco-German engagement is also viewed with skepticism in some other European nations which don’t see the globalization agenda, furthered by Berlin and Paris, as good for their national interests.

Just last week, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini lashed out at the two Western European nations, saying his country seeks to join forces with Poland to change the EU in a way more to the liking of their nationalist governments. Salvini is a leader of Euroskeptic forces in Europe, seeking to prove themselves during the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.

‘Geopolitical regression’ or a positive step forward?

Analysts' opinions of the new treaty have been divided. While it is billed as a follow-up to the 1963 Elysee Treaty, it has one key difference, two experts told RT: it promotes integration rather than cooperation between two sovereign states.

This makes it an act of “geopolitical regression” compared to the 1963 agreement, political analyst Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann told RT. France, especially, will lose out on “maneuverability,” he believes.

Instead of giving more power to France and creating an independent Europe, it is an alignment on the German vision of Europe, which is Atlantist and integrationists.

Alain Corvez, a former adviser for the French Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, doubts the treaty can be effectively implemented, musing that it's simply a bold statement the French and German leaders are using to prop up sagging domestic support.

“Most of the analysts I discussed this with think that… it's just ‘blah blah blah’ of Macron and Merkel, who are very weak in their own countries,” he said.

On the other hand, Dr. Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, a former German Ambassador to Russia and ex-German representative at the NATO Council, said the Aachen Treaty is a “commendable effort” that "builds on what has been achieved" in Franco-German relations over the last fifty years.

“There will be people who say too little, there will be people who say too much,” Ploetz acknowledged. In his view, the pact provides “balance of bilateral ambitions” while promoting much-needed cooperation on issues ranging from environmental policy to transportation.

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