France and Germany have renewed a 1963 treaty to further entrench their ties at a time when populist parties and the UK’s planned departure from the EU has placed increased strain on the bloc.
The deal intends to forge closer ties in foreign police and defence, with German chancellor Angela Merkel speaking of a possible “European army” via a “joint military culture.”
French president Emmanuel Macron said the deal must be used to strengthen the EU (maybe European?) “people from the tumults of the world,” at a ceremony held at the border town of Aachen on Tuesday.
“At a time when Europe is threatened by nationalism, which is growing from within, when Europe is shaken by the pains of Brexit and worried by global changes that go far beyond the national level ... Germany and France must assume their responsibility and show the way forward,” he told an audience of European leaders.
"(The threat) comes from outside Europe and from within our societies if we are not able to respond to the growing anger,” added Mr Macron.
The pact has, however, led to a barrage of criticism from nationalists with Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Front, claiming it was “an act that borders on treason.”
It has, in fact, been described as an extension of the 1963 Elysee Treaty between France and Germany that sought to nurture better relations between the two countries in the wake of two devastating world wars.
The treaty stipulates France will help push for German inclusion to the five-strong permanent members of the UN Security Council. This was seized upon by Ms Le Pen who told a rally last week: “Emmanuel Macron now wants to share this seat with the Germans.” In a video that spread across social media she alleged the deal would put France’s border region of Alsace partially under German control.
The Elysee has since hit back, rejecting the UN seat-sharing allegations and admonishing those who have said the Alsace population would learn German or France would lose its sovereignty.
Alexander Gauland, co-chief of Germany’s far-right AfD party, said the two governments were trying to make a “super EU” within the bloc. “The EU is now deeply divided. A German-French special relationship will alienate us even further from the other Europeans,” he said.
Mr Macron has come under a barrage of criticism in France as ‘Yellow Jacket’ protestors have taken to the streets against his leadership. Mrs Merkel announced last October she would step down as chancellor nor would she stay on as party leader of Christian Democratic Union.