France and Germany's power couples

18th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

From 'MERKOZY' to KOHL-MITTERRAND, Germany and France have produced some of the world's most influential and prominent power couples since signing the treaty 50 years ago setting Franco-German friendship in stone:

- 1958-1963: Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer.

In 1962 De Gaulle becomes the first French head of state to visit the Rhineland since Napoleon, and receives an enthusiastic welcome from thousands of Germans.

Several months later he signs the Elysee Treaty with West Germany's conservative chancellor Adenauer. Their bond of trust foresees what becomes known as the Franco-German "axis" or "couple".

- 1969-1974: Georges Pompidou and Willy Brandt

The couple, who come to power in 1969, relaunch economic cooperation, agreeing to jointly build the Airbus airplane and the Symphonie telecommunications satellite. The conservative Pompidou and the Social Democrat Brandt do not have a lot in common but still manage to hold dialogue.

- 1974-1981: Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt

Elected almost at the same time in 1974, the Social Democrat Schmidt and centre-right president Giscard d'Estaing inject a new impetus into European integration. Under their steam, regular European summits are held and they lay down the basis for monetary union in Europe, with the 1978 establishment of the European Monetary System (EMS).

- 1982-1995: Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl

In a highly symbolic gesture, the Christian Democrat Kohl and the socialist Mitterrand hold hands in 1984 at Verdun, the scene of the worst battle of World War I. The two men are very different, but share a common sense of history. They propel Europe forward with, in 1986, the Single European Act, which creates a single market among the European bloc's members. After being initially wary of German reunification led by Kohl after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mitterrand's support opens the way to the creation of a single European currency and enhanced diplomatic and military cooperation.

- 1998-2005: Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac

The Social Democrat Schroeder and conservative Chirac get off to a stormy start, despite the birth of the European Union's euro single currency. But relations then improve and they meet regularly. From 2002 the couple launch themselves into plans for a European constitution and work to make Europe a political bloc. In 2003, their common opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq brings them closer still. But the negative result of France's referendum on the European constitution in 2005 causes strains in the relationship.

- 2007-2012: Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel

They might both be on the centre right, but Sarkozy and Merkel have a difficult start. However, from 2009 the couple take centre stage during the eurozone debt crisis, when, despite disagreements and declarations, on the one hand, of love, and irritation on the other, the "Merkozy" couple engineer an EU fund to help debt-stricken nations and propose a budgetary pact to rein in public debt.

In early 2012, Merkel, who refuses to host the socialist candidate Francois Hollande during the presidential campaign, throws her weight behind Sarkozy.

The day he takes up office, a newly-elected Hollande visits Berlin, where he is hosted by Merkel.


© 2013 AFP

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