Paris and Berlin: Partnership and rivalry

Nano Ruzhin

Paris remains a symbol of romanticism and love. When one says the name Paris, we immediately think of of Edith Piaf and her “anthem of love,” we think of Brassens and his beloved in the Luxembourg park, the chansons of Montagne, of Joe Dassin and the Indian Summer, of Gainsbourg and Birkin and their “I love you – Me neither”. Paris is the personification of romance and love. Berlin, the capital of Germany, is the city from where the expressionism originated symbolized through the expression of emotions, the city of Bertolt Brecht and Gottfried Benu, the architect Walter Gropius – the creator of Bauhaus. But Berlin was also the symbol of the Cold War. The war of strategic rivalry between US capitalism and Soviet communism. In Berlin, the red phone was invented at the request of Khrushchev. In this city, John Kennedy uttered the famous support to Berlin: Ich bin ein Berliner!

Half a century later, Paris and Berlin are the capital cities of France and Germany. The fate of the French-German duo over the last two centuries has been filled with transformations, tragedies, massive clashes and sacrifices, and finally with peace, tolerance and co-operation. The history of their emotional connection is long. In the new history of Europe, the great story between France and Germany was first created within the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon Bonaparte. Then the Germans were natural allies of the French. The first recorded rivalry was that of the reunification of Germany, when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1871 concluded a chain of alliances to isolate France, fearing a military revenge. After World War I and the Treaty of Versailles (1919) Germany was humiliated and frustrated by French domination. However, Ministers Gustav Stresemann and Aristide Bruant created the first French-German couple to promote peace. In 1945, after the defeat of Adolf Hitler, the new period of the German-French couple has begun. Before the division of Germany (1949), France thought that the base strategic pursuit came from its traditional enemy Germany. When the Cold War divided Europe into Eastern and Western, the entire geopolitical context changed. The Declaration of the French Minister Schuman since 1950 laid the foundations of the future EU, which was created by the Treaty of Rome 1957.

From this event, the French German relations are characterized by the constant approximation and mutual respect of the great statesmen who have marched from both sides of the Rhine. First, General De Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the 1963 Élysée Treaty on the privileged partnership between Paris and Bonn. Then came the stage of the couple Georges Pompidou and Willy Brandt. This epoch was marked by the “Eastern politics” and the détente of Willy Brandt. The period between 1974 and 1982 was defended by Giscard d’Estaing and Helmut Schmidt. Correlation experienced the highest level in the couple’s age Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl and their historic handling on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of The Battle of Verdun (1984). These are the years of the EU enlargement for 12 new members, the signing of the Schengen Agreement (1985), which opened up space for free circulation of people in Western Europe. In this era the Berlin Wall falls and comes to the unification of the two Germans. In 2000, at the time of the French-German couple Jacques Chirac-Gerhard Schroeder, the Blaesheim process was initiated, which established a two-month periodical meeting at the top between Paris and Berlin. In 2008, Sarkozy, encouraged by Merkel, decided to return France to the military wing of NATO after 40 years of absence. The two Sarkozy and Merkel demonstrated their firmness over financial support for Greece during its economic and social crisis.

The reputation of the French-German couple in the EU’s history so far has shown that these two countries have decided on all important issues from the internal and external plan. Great Britain as the only one supporting Berlin, opposed the overwhelming ambitions of Paris, and maintained the internal balance of the EU. With Brexit, Merkel probably calculated that she could lose a solid partner and a large British market for her products. France will dominate because it will remain the only EU nuclear power and the only EU member in the UN Security Council.

The leading rules and principles for forming the European conception are in the minds of Macron (the new European political star) and Merkel, who loses her leadership, especially after deviating from the leading position of the CDU in favor of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the poor performance of European elections. At the height of the election campaign for MEPs, Macron sent a letter to European leaders and citizens entitled “Renaissance of Europe”. In this appeal, he advocates a “stronger and more institutionally developed EU”. “Strong Europe” for Macron means the EU with a powerful center. His conception is the only French vision for the EU that has not met with great enthusiasm in other countries. For the peripheral and new EU members, the concept of “strong Europe” is only a mechanism for exporting the French bureaucratic system – etatism in the rest of Europe. When France is demanding more of Europe, it means that it requires more of France. Similar to Thatcher at the time of Mitterrand, Euro-skeptics increasingly incline toward “Europe of space” instead of Macron’s more integrated Europe.

Five days later, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer responded, which made a real sanitary corridor to Macron’s proposals. Some analysts have already declared the end of a long French-German partnership. The new CDU leader stressed that the EU system should rely on subsidiarity, the individual responsibility of their own engagements. Before wealth is shared, it should be produced, suggests the German leader. In order to overcome the anachronisms, European officials should pay taxes, and the European Parliament should stop meeting in Strasbourg and stay in Brussels. Karrenbauer believes that the deepening of EU reforms must not go down to Germany’s financial solidarity with its neighbors. European centralism and etatism, communitarianism of debts, Europeanization of social protection and minimal wages are unacceptable. Reforms in the EU are not possible without state-nations. These are the foundations of the democratic legitimacy of the peoples. On a strategic level, Kramp-Karrenbauer asks France to build a joint aircraft carrier. Additionally, she asks France to stay in the UN Security Council for the benefit of the EU.

Can Paris and Berlin with such a rival conceptual context focus on the EU’s enlargement to the Balkans, which was promised in 2018? North Macedonia and Albania expect dates for the start of accession talks, Serbia and Montenegro expect opening of new chapters. For now, European leaders are very reserved and they send the impression that they are in the dilemma of giving priority to Brexit or the Balkans. For Macron, the reforms are primary, and only then comes the EU enlargement. That’s why he also says the same oxymoronic sentence that he will not hinder the EU’s enlargement, until our Europe has improved… and then add: but we must not leave the Balkans to Turkey or Russia. We wonder if the EU makes the Balkans choose between the West and Russia? He proposed a whole strategy for facilitating the Western Balkans’ entry into the EU. Merkel did not react to it. Reportedly, he expects to see how the local elections in Albania will go, an aspirant who is supposed to go in a package with North Macedonia. Macron also thinks about this issue in different nuances and believes that North Macedonia has an advantage over Albania. With us under the pressure of those who were against NATO and the EU, a paradoxical situation has arisen that if a date is not reached in June / July it would mean a collapse of Zaev’s politics. It is interesting that Zaev also fell under such a psychosis. They forgot that we lost 11 years because of their hard-line nationalism and hostility with all neighbors. During that time, Paris will remain the greatest city of love in Europe, while Berlin is the center of cold and creative expressionism. As for the mutual love couple, their paradox may be best expressed through the erotic song of Gainsbourg and Birkin – “I love you… Me neither” (Je t’aime moi non plus).

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik