The Co-operation between France and United Germany - Motor of European Integration?
AbstractFrom the 1950s to the 1980s, the Franco-German duo proved to be a true engine of the integration of Western Europe. Since German unification, however, European integration has witnessed an increase in the number and intensity of discords between Europe's two main actors; and that above all with respect to the CFSP, EU enlargement, institutional reform as well as the future role of the European Union. Duo to the status of the Franco-German partnership in the 1990s, significant progress was only made with regard to enhanced co-operation, the third pillar and the EMU. This article seeks to provide an answer to the question whether the Franco-German couple - despite all the tensions that have recently strained the relationship - is still to be considered a driving force of European integration.
The fact that the Franco-German partnership is no longer as exclusive and privileged as it used to be during the first four decades following WWII, is due to the changes that have taken place in France and united Germany as well as at the EU level. After German unification, the European politics of Paris and Bonn/Berlin has reflected the shift in national interests and has been more noticeably influenced by the differences as for the internal structure of integration politics formation in both countries. At the EU level, the number of both the member countries and areas of co-operation has increased, and the step-by-step integration has started touching some domestically rather sensitive issues. Therefore, it is quite understandable that European integration has started to be dominated on a much higher scale by the national interests of individual member countries, whereby it has become more difficult for France and Germany (and not just for these two member states) to find common ground.
In conclusion, it is suggested that in the years to come various coalitions will be formed within the EU based on the degree to which national interests of individual member countries overlap in each particular area of integration. This should be fostered further after the Nice Treaty, softening the conditions for enhanced co-operation. Also, the analysis of the recent visions for Europe by representatives of member countries speaks in favour of this specific form of future co-operation at the European level. Although the shifting coalitions scenario seems to respond best to the future needs of European integration, due to the political and economic weight of France and Germany a certain amount of co-operation between these two countries (even though no longer in such an exclusive and intensive form) will remain essential so that the EU maintains its capacity to act efficiently and is able to face challenges coming from both within and outside Europe.
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