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Fifty years of Franco-German friendship

Institutions and values 20th and 21th centuries

Angela Merkel and François Hollande © Patrick Aventurier / AFP

Chancelor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande, on 8 July 2012 in Reims, for the 50th anniversary of the historical meeting between Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in 1962. © Patrick Aventurier / AFP

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Elysée Treaty (on 22 January 1963), several commemorative events will be held this year, highlighting the strength and history of the Franco-German relationship. It will be “Franco-German year”. The first event to be celebrated is the September 1962 speech hailing Franco-German friendship that General de Gaulle delivered to young Germans while on a visit to the country.

The Jubilee of Charles de Gaulle's speech to an audience of young Germans  

On 9 September 1962, a few months prior to the signing of the famous Elysée Treaty (a fundamental milestone for the Franco-German partnership), General de Gaulle visited Ludwigsburg at the end of a week-long official visit to the country where he delivered a speech to young Germans. Speaking about Franco-German solidarity, Charles de Gaulle declared “it goes without saying that it has to be organised. And it is the task of governments to do it. But we also have to give it substance and this, above all, should be the work of young people.”

It was at the exact spot that Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande met fifty years later on 22 September 2012. A civic celebration was organised after the meeting. In conjunction, the town of Ludwigsburg and the Franco-German Institute organised a forum entitled “It's our Europe!” The Franco-German Institute also held a science conference from 19 to 21 September.

Fiftieth anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, 22 January 2013 

A few months after General de Gaulle's speech on 22 January 1963, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and General de Gaulle signed the Treaty for Franco-German cooperation, which was to become known as the “Elysée Treaty”. The agreement sealed Franco-German reconciliation and formed the bedrock for the Franco-German partnership. The two countries were already founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1957 by the Treaty of Rome, along with four other European countries. Today, the Franco-German powerhouse is central to the European Union.

But with the Elysée Treaty began another process in history: reconciliation driven by the nations' people. The leaders of the two countries were convinced that they could not be brought together by politics and treaties between the two nations alone. The process had to become an integral part of people's day-to-day existence. As such, the leaders decided to focus their attention on the countries' young people. The Elysée Treaty launched Franco-German high schools. It also paved the way for the creation of the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ (office franco-allemand pour la jeunesse) in French or DFJW (Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk) in German). The organisation offers more than 200,000 young people every year the chance to visit the partner country. Through the OFAJ, young people are able to take advantage of a range of opportunities including work placements, voluntary work, studies and employment in Germany (see Franco-German Youth Office website).

Today, 61,000 young people take part in Franco-German school exchange programmes and 6,000 students take courses in the partner country every year (Source: Goethe Institute, 2011 data). Each year, 10,000 French high school pupils and the same number of German pupils take the Franco-German baccalauréat examination (Abibac). Around 80,000 pupils are enrolled in bilingual French-German classes, and 22% of French school pupils currently study German. More than half of young Germans state that they know at least a little French. The Franco-German University, created in 1999 and made up of a network of affiliated French and German universities, offers 130 integrated courses in France and Germany.

Many French and German towns, schools and regions have established twinning agreements since the treaty was signed, leading to numerous economic, touristic, school and extra-curricular exchanges.

Where culture is concerned, there are 10 Franco-German cultural centres and 11 cultural institutes in the two countries. The Franco-German television channel, Arte, created in 1991, fits squarely within this drive to promote the coming together of the two countries and cultural exchange.

And, of course, Germany is also France's leading economic partner. 320,000 people are employed in German companies in France and 285,000 people are employed in French companies in Germany (source: Franco-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

The anniversary of the signing of the Elysée Treaty is set to be celebrated in the German capital with joint political events, particularly a Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting, and a joint parliamentary session. A concert will be held at the Berlin Konzerthaus, and the OFAJ will organise a “youth parliament” session.

Third stage, Paris (5 July 2013)  

Franco-German year will be brought to an official close on 5 July 2013 at a celebratory event organised by the OFAJ to mark the 50th anniversary of its creation.

In addition, a call for applications for the “50 years, 50 projects” programme has been launched by the OFAJ, to mark this 50th anniversary.