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.
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.
Berlin has turned down Paris’s request for help in Africa’s Sahel region twice in a row, it has been reported, as the security situation in the volatile region keeps worsening.
France is currently engaged in an anti-terrorist operation in Mali and other countries south of the Sahara Desert, in the region known as Sahel. While France and Germany have repeatedly assured each other of military support should their ‘sovereignty’ come under attack, the case of Sahel appears to cross a line.