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What is today’s new Franco-German treaty?

Today France is signing a new cooperation treaty with Germany – but contrary to certain reports it does not involve handing over Alsace-Lorraine or sharing France’s United Nations security council seat.

22 January 2019
By Oliver Rowland

The agreement being signed today by President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Aix-la-Chapelle has been subject to accusations from the far right and social media ‘fake news’.

Aimed at strengthening the two countries’ European values, the treaty will involve closer cooperation and new joint projects between regions on either side of the Franco-German border.

However contrary to certain articles, German will not become the official language across the areas, although the plan does aim to encourage bilingualism.

Coming 56 years after the signing of the Elysée Treaty of friendship between France and West Germany, the new treaty encourages common positions between the countries on European and foreign affairs, defence and security, culture, education, research and IT.

It also aims to give new powers and resources to local authorities and cross-border organisations to create joint projects in areas like commerce, social welfare, the environment, health, transport and energy.

Called Aachen in German, Aix-la-Chapelle is the most westerly German city. It has changed hands over the centuries and was the preferred residence of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne.

Sovereigntist MEP Bernard Monot of Debout la France (formerly of the FN) stirred up controversy over the plans, accusing France of “high treason” and “selling Alsace-Lorraine” via a “secret” treaty. In fact the treaty has been openly planned since 2017 when President Macron made a speech about Europe at the Sorbonne.

Rassemblement National’s Marine le Pen then claimed that the treaty would mean France sharing its UN security council seat with Germany.

In fact the treaty says the countries will seek to have more “exchanges” between their United Nations teams in New York and that France supports Germany having its own security council seat – at present the only ones with a permanent seat are China, France, Russia the USA and UK. However France has no plans to give up or share its own seat.

Ms Le Pen also said part of Alsace would be under German authority, however the treaty does not provide for this and says any new measures must be “in the respect of the respective constitutional rules of the two states”.

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