According to the text of the German-French Friendship Pact, the two countries will reinforce their cooperation in the areas of foreign affairs, defense, security as well as both domestic and foreign development, while working together to strengthen Europe’s ability to act independently.
History of Cooperation between Germany and France
Cooperation between Germany and France dates back to 1957 and the signing of the Paris Treaty for the establishment of the Western European Union. Subsequently, the two countries joined the European Economic Community and somehow assumed European leadership.
This collaboration went so far that in 1963, the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President General De Gaulle, met at the Elysee Palace, and signed a friendship treaty. According to the treaty, it was agreed that the two countries should cooperate on economic and cultural matters in addition to political interaction.
This alignment was among the reasons why both countries joined the various international institutions and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Treaty of Schengen, and the Atomic Energy Agency of Europe.
Of course, the two countries did not share the same view about everything and sometimes even became rivals. For example, mention can be made of France’s reluctance to expand the European Union towards Eastern Europe or the behind-the-scene cooperation between London and Paris to undermine Germany in the European institutions.
Nevertheless, the leaders of the two countries have decided to renew the friendship pact, which, in addition to consolidation of the 1963 treaty, underlines the need to develop bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of defense as required.
Idea of Launching Joint European Army
The idea of launching a joint European army gained momentum after US President Donald Trump pressed the European states to pay their shares in NATO; French president in remarks made in November underlined the need to launch a European army and described the US a threat.
Macron regarded the formation of a real army in Europe to protect the continent against China, Russia and even the United States imperative and referring to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) said the main victim of this decision is Europe and the security of its member states.
The European Commission also supported the French president’s proposal to launch a European Army, and EC President Jean Claude Junker said that obedience to NATO could no longer be a compelling pretext against joint defense efforts in Europe.
On the other hand, British withdrawal from the European Union has boosted the issue of defense cooperation in the European Union, because Brussels is worried that Trump, compared to Obama, has less desire to defend Europe against Russia’s possible hostile actions.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a speech to the European Parliament in November and voiced support for the creation of a European army and considered it a good complement for NATO. Merkel stressed that the fate of Europe must be in the hands of Europe itself.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said that, regardless of Trump’s era, Europe needs a new and balanced partnership with the United States and reinforcement of the European column of the alliance on the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
From the perspective of Germany as one of the most important countries of the European Union and the largest economic power in Europe, Trump has in a calculated manner embarked on destroying all the instruments and regulations of multilateralism and has put the approach of force-based unilateralism on the top of his international efforts.
The idea of launching a European Army, however, was strongly opposed by the President of the United States so that during his Paris visit, Trump called the French president’s statement on creation of an independent European army insulting.
Of course, the idea of a European Army is not new. The history of this idea dates back to the De Gaulle doctrine that predicted the pillar of Europe in NATO independent of the United States. France already presented such a plan in 1950 in the presence of six European countries, namely Belgium, France, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and the former West Germany.
Consequently, Macron, who, according to experts, is an advocate of General De Gaulle in foreign policy, once again raised the idea of creating the European Army. Raising the idea once again shows that Europeans are seeking to come out of America’s influence. This means that Europe can defend itself independently of America, because the first policy of Trump’s American has been accompanied by widespread criticism of the European leaders. They believe that the US president has undermined the traditional Western alliances, including NATO. Europeans believe that NATO is serving US military targets more than trying to secure Europe.
Challenges of a European Army
Supporting the idea of a European Army does not mean its realization in principle because some of the NATO member states are still skeptical about it. Meantime, some experts believe that the establishment of the European Union’s defense institution faces particular legal problems, because such an institution does not have the backing of state sovereignty and lacks defense and financial bodies in charge.
For example, the ultimate decision-making authority on the use of military force outside the borders is the European Parliament, and this in emergency situations could reduce the speed of European military. At present, however, many European countries are not able to spend even two percent of their Gross Domestic Product on military funding.
However, the leaders of key European countries, namely France and Germany, have come to the conclusion that reliance on Washington to maintain European security is not possible due to the unilateralism of the US president, and the Europeans should take care of their own security. Meanwhile, Europe’s intention to achieve military and defense independence, among which goals is the European ability to deal with security crises inside Europe, have led to more American dissatisfaction, because its realization means reducing Washington’s capacity to intervene and play a role in European security crises.
The insistence of the US president on unilateralism and withdrawal from cooperation treaties seems to have increased the gap between the United States and the West to the extent that the decline of the US hegemony has been accelerated.