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This is how the wounds of the past are healed – The ambassadors of France and Germany give a joint interview to “Politis”

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This is how the wounds of the past are healed - The ambassadors of France and Germany give a joint interview to

In a joint interview with “Politis” , the ambassadors of France and Germany to Cyprus, Salina Grenet – Catalan and Anke Slim, talk about how their countries managed to turn the eternal conflict between them into an alliance and explain how Cyprus will could benefit.

On January 22, your countries celebrated the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of the Elysium, which opened a new chapter in Franco-German relations. Fifty-five years later, what is its significance and how does it affect the daily lives of French and Germans?

Indeed, January 22 is a very important day which is celebrated, both in France and in Germany, on the occasion of the signing of this Franco-German cooperation agreement between the President of France, Charles de Gaulle, and the Chancellor of Germany. Germany, Konrad Adenauer, 1963. This document specifically sealed the Franco-German reconciliation, in the logic of the bilateral dimension after the Schuman Declaration in 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community, and the Treaty of Rome establishing the EEC . We must not forget that reconciliation between Germany and France has been a key driver of the European venture.

You are right when you say that a new chapter has really opened and we must keep in mind that the conclusion of the Treaty of the Elysium did not come easily. Much is due to the personalities of both Conrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, who managed to go beyond what people believed at the time, displaying incredible political will. We must remember that all this happened less than 20 years after the terrible sufferings of World War II, when hostility and prejudice remained in fact very strong between our two countries.

The Treaty provides all the necessary tools to make reconciliation a long-term reality and to somehow spread it to ordinary people. This, after all, is what makes it unique. Of course, it deals with cooperation between France and Germany on foreign and defense policy, promoting common positions. But, the most important part is the provisions for education and youth: increasing the teaching of the respective languages in schools, building the equality of diplomas, strengthening scientific cooperation and organizing exchanges between young people through the creation of the Franco-German office for youth. The Treaty changed everything in relation to the future of both countries and Europe and this would not have happened without the vision of the leaders of that time.

The French and Germans are still benefiting from this miracle today, as the friendship has become self-evident. Almost no one disputes it. The polls, on both sides of the Rhine, are quite clear, in both countries the other is considered the obvious partner, but also the best friend by far. Countless cities are twinned, some of which are in fact a common city such as Strasbourg and Kehl via the “Bridge of Europe”, and many political initiatives go hand in hand.

Nevertheless, Europe looks very different today. The Treaty of Aachen in 2019 saw these new realities and essentially updated the Treaty of the Elysium accordingly. But given that all this is happening in a united Europe, what is the significance of both Treaties for your countries, but also for the rest of Europe today?

When it all started, in the 1960s, with the Treaty of the Elysées, the issue, as said before, was reconciliation and peace. This prerequisite was fulfilled, it gradually became the issue of Europe, with each “pair” of leaders that followed to add to our common ambition, bilaterally and for Europe. Georges Pompidou and Willy Bradt set up Airbus and the first Franco-German high schools, Valerie Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, launched the European Monetary System; and the euro, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder jointly opposed the war in Iraq, Merkel-Sarkozy led the response to the global financial crisis, Merkel-Hollande worked together in the form of Normandy to help resolve the crisis Ukraine. We could cite many more examples, but each of these steps made the Europe we know today more cohesive, more integrated, more powerful.

Of course, an update of the 1963 framework was necessary, but in reality it was more of an upgrade than an update. On January 22, 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emanuel Macron signed the Treaty of Aachen / Aix-la-Chapelle, a symbolic city of our common past, to renew our commitment to each other and to gather strength. for a strong and sovereign Europe. The title of the treaty speaks for itself. It is the Treaty “on Franco-German Cooperation and Integration”, and covers many more areas of specific cooperation than the Treaty of the Elysium. Recognizes that France and Germany share a vision of a Europe that is strong, sovereign, sustainable, future-oriented and united. We believe that the European Union represents a set of principles and a perspective for the future, to which many countries and peoples around the world are willing to join. France and Germany are united in their quest to make this vision of Europe a reality.

This is how the wounds of the past are healed - The ambassadors of France and Germany give a joint interview to

With the establishment of lasting peace and the end of centuries of enmity, France and Germany have set an example of reconciliation that is often cited around the world. You are both serving in Nicosia today. How do you think Cyprus could benefit from this example?

The relationship between France and Germany is characterized by centuries of bloodshed between the two countries, almost every family, both in France and in Germany, has lost at least one family member during the First and Second World Wars. A lot of pain and sadness remained in both countries. The wounds of the past needed healing, the prejudices between them had to be overcome.

I remember when I was a child the general perception of the Germans was confused. People in France at the time used to talk about Les Boches (a derogatory term for Germans) because we must not forget that we are talking about the 1970s, twenty-five years after the end of World War II. War and the memory of the German occupation of France was still very strong. This is not the case today. A recent survey showed that 74% of French people consider Germany to be our closest friend and ally. I discovered Germany at 17, I was learning German like Anke French and I had the opportunity to live for a month with a German family in Augsburg, and it was a very close and emotional relationship when I knew the country itself. Later, I met a group of young people in Berlin, right after the fall of the Wall, and that changed me a lot because it was there that I realized the power of reconciliation, and that was one of the factors that pushed me to pursue diplomacy.

In this context, we firmly believe that reconciliation, dialogue and personal contacts between people are of the utmost importance in order to lay the foundations of trust and constructive coexistence. We believe that youth is the key in this regard.

But why is youth the key?

Focusing on youth, the goal was to create a bridge for the future of the two countries. The leaders of Germany and France have acknowledged that the way young people are raised and the experiences they gain at a young age will influence and strengthen the ties between France and Germany. Knowing each other, young people have the opportunity to overcome prejudice and fear, necessarily at a time when memories of the war were so vivid.

The Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ-DFJW) was established in 1963, and since then almost 9 million young people from Germany and France have participated in exchange programs. France and Germany looked very specifically at how to encourage the learning of the other country's language. They organized a youth exchange program, cultural meetings, town and school twinning, and joint university programs. A Franco-German university was founded. An organized system was created against the emerging mentalities.

I remember that 5-6 times, when I was a child, we traveled to France to spend our summer holidays. We lived in what is called the Maison Familiales de Vacances. They were family holiday homes, where French and German families met and spent their holidays together. I remember how much my parents loved some details, like the red wine at the lunch table or us kids a piece of pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) right after. We kept in touch with most of the families and they reciprocated the visit, they were relationships that lasted over time. I have very fond memories of these experiences and today I consider myself French-speaking and French-speaking. This experience laid the foundation for my love for France and the French. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports the “Imagine” educational program which includes pedagogical activities, in which Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot students have the opportunity to get in touch accompanied by their teachers. “Imagine” has brought together over 5,000 students and 500 teachers from both communities since 2017. The project is implemented by the Historical Dialogue and Research Group (AHDR), is under the auspices of the Technical Education Committee and is supported by United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). I believe that these young people benefit significantly from their participation in workshops and joint activities.

Source: politis.com.cy

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