INTRODUCTION For the third time since the 40th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty (signed by Adenauer and de Gaulle in 1963) the cabinets of the French and German Governments met in Paris. Chancellor Schröder, President Chirac, the French Prime Minister Raffarin, and the German Foreign Minister Fischer met with other cabinet members from both countries in what they see as a “government within a government” and others would see as a “block within the EU”. The meetings formalise for public consumption what has been a fact of life in the European Union for decades.
The European Union has always been driven by a Paris/Bonn, now Paris Berlin, axis with secret talks between the leaders of the two countries – coordinated with their own commissioners in Brussels – preceding any meetings of the EU Council of Ministers. With such an initial “block” of votes initiating new policies and the exploitation of the Brussels bureaucracy their initiatives have been hard to stop. With 25 member states the position is somewhat different as we see from their frantic opposition to the understandable demands of Spain and Poland. These countries were given voting rights in the Nice Treaty which the Franco German axis now wants to take away in the new European “Constitution”.
But the far more dangerous aspect of this Franco German axis is the return to the 1940s “Continental System” of industrial and economic cooperation established by the Nazi German Government and the French collaborationist Vichy regime. The Franco-German industrial cooperation today is considerable and is concentrated in the (politically highly sensitive) areas of electronics, aerospace and defence equipment. Between them they dominate the Airbus civil aircraft business (now selling more aircraft than Boeing) their joint venture EADS dominates EU defence equipment while Alstom and Siemens dominate electronics. The two French companies Alstom and Thales (because perhaps they are seen as more acceptable than direct German involvement in the UK!) have taken over much of the British electronics (Alstom has 72 subsidiaries in the UK) and defence equipment industries (Thales has 60 British subsidiaries).
However, serious conflicts have arisen between France and Germany as they aim to make “joint industrial champions”. The French Government is expected soon to announce that it will take a 31.5 percent share in Alstom (thus as in so many other industries allowing the French State to effectively nationalise what were once British companies) in a rescue deal that is set to be cleared by the European Commission.
But the Germans are not amused, especially Siemens which was hoping to acquire assets in Alstom. A similar row broke out in April when the French Government again intervened to stop a takeover in the chemical industry and instead promote the takeover by a French company of the German concern Aventis – putting jobs in Frankfurt at risk!
Now the French determination to keep Alstom in the hands of the government (the State will be its biggest shareholder) threatens to undermine a Franco-German plan to create “European industrial champions”. So even where the great Franco-German Euro-plan reaches its highest level, in industrial merger, two nationalistic nation states fall out – so much for the prospects of “Europe” as a world power. Indeed at the end of the joint cabinet meeting described below both sides described their “lack of a common language” as the “biggest barrier” to Franco-German relations. It is ironic that in order to communicate without interpreters Chirac and Schroeder spoke a little (!) English – the words “This is good for us” from Schroeder referring to the fact that Germany had no constitutional allowance for holding referenda! With democrats like that who needs dictators?
On the other hand France demands of others that they think “European”. The French have built Britain’s latest luxury liner the Queen Mary and are jointly building the latest aircraft carriers for the British navy.
France joined NATO and then left at the height of the cold war. French security services bombed and killed Greenpeace personnel in New Zealand. The French President went round the world drumming up opposition to the UN resolution tabled by the UK and USA authorising war against Iraq. With France’s history of opposition to most British foreign policy, intensive and often secret cooperation with Germany both inside and outside the EU, deliberately excluding the UK, and the most recent hostility and personal abuse directed by France and Germany at the UK and the USA over Iraq the British Government’s passive acceptance of the above industrial/military moves are at best naïve and at worst a fatal error.
Having forced “single” and “common” policies on 23 other nation states and created a coercive central bureaucracy to control others the French and German Governments have throughout the history of the EEC/EC/EU concluded various bilateral arrangements. The Elysee Treaty is an example. Germany has done this with the Soviet Union/CIS over the years. And such behaviour coincides with their perpetual calls for “solidarity” from other member states, calls for a single EU seat on the UN security council and for the EU to have a “single legal personality”.
Herewith the report of the 13th May joint cabinet meeting in Paris from the German Government/s official website:
France and Germany work together closely as neighbours, in the European Union, and in international organizations. The two heads of government and their cabinets discussed practical measures in all three areas at a Franco-German ministerial council meeting held in Paris on May 13.
Speaking at a press conference after their meeting, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Jacques Chirac agreed that Germany and France should speak with one voice on all issues at the European and international levels. (By thus excluding possible agreement with other member states this is a direct challenge to the original idea of the European Union and confirms that the EU is now – if indeed it were ever anything else – a vehicle for the promotion of French and German nationalist policies)
Joint industrial policy framework
The two governments want to formulate a joint industrial policy aimed at creating a framework for mergers and joint ventures between major German and French corporations.
Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Industry Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Chancellor Schröder, and Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement are scheduled to meet in Berlin at the end of May to define this framework. An alliance being worked towards between French electronics giant Alstom and Siemens will be among the subjects discussed.
With a view to promoting interchange between the people of the two countries the governments want to work on overcoming the still considerable language barrier between them. As President Chirac put it, this is the only border that still divides the two neighbors. The responsible ministers were instructed to intensify ongoing efforts in this direction.
Joint driving force for Europe
Schröder and Chirac strongly advocate applying the European growth and stability pact in a growth-oriented way (ie not applying it at all – both countries long ago broke the terms of the Pact which Germany in particular forced on others! Since then a total of 6 member states have broken the pact and if the budgetary statistics of the 10 new members can be believed they will soon be joined by others) that will support the emerging trend towards economic recovery being seen throughout Europe.
An important objective for both governments is to create a Europe of the people, by the people, and for the people which will counteract tendencies that alienate average citizens (sic) from the European Union.
A European constitution will help do this by strengthening personal identification with the EU as well as by increasing its ability to act and exert influence. Bureaucratic barriers are to be reduced with a view to making it easier for people to study, live, work, and do business in other member countries.
Joint position on Iraq resolution
Schröder and Chirac stated that Germany and France want to assume a joint stance in the work being done on a new Iraq resolution in the UN Security Council, adding that they will be coordinating their positions closely in the coming weeks.
Chancellor Schröder mentioned that he had been touched and honored by President Chirac’s invitation to attend the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 and that this has great symbolic importance for people in Germany.