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Franco-German Op-Ed: 59 Years Ago, the Elysee Treaty Sealed the Franco-German Reconciliation: A Source of Inspiration for Serbia and Kosovo
Franco-German Day 2022, © German Federal Foreign Office
By ambassador Marie-Christine Butel and ambassador Jörn Rohde
On 22 January 2022, we celebrate the anniversary of the Élysée treaty between France and Germany, as the cornerstone of today’s Franco-German reconciliation and peace, after our two countries had been at war three times within 70 years. Wars that caused millions of deaths on both sides. Less than 20 years after World War II, French and German political leaders - at the forefront were President De Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer - showed an unfailing commitment to turn the darkest page of their common history and signed a treaty which resolutely steered us towards the future by focusing on a better joint future for the next generations.
This treaty created for instance the Franco-German Youth office (OFAJ / DFJW). The Elysée treaty also laid the foundations of the close Franco-German partnership and the European project that we have built together with our European friends since 1951. This enabled us to guarantee a sustainable peace and a shared prosperity within Europe. Peace and prosperity were born of the will of the rulers and peoples of Europe to overcome the recent tragedies of our history.
Today we find inspiration in the history of France and Germany and in the successful reconciliation of our peoples also for our engagement in Kosovo and in the Western Balkans. To yearn for joining the European Union also means to comprehend this dimension of the European construction. The European Union could not have been built without the willingness of the peoples to live together.
This is the inspiration for our constant support in favour of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) in the Western Balkans. For the present and the future, it is essential that young people get to know each other, that current clichés and prejudices are deconstructed and that young people of all backgrounds get the taste for and the habit of exchanging, talking to each other, working together and living together in this region at the heart of Europe.
This inspiration is also why we have supported regional integration in the Western Balkans through, for example, the implementation of the regional common market, the Berlin Process and the commitments adopted in Sofia. Regional cooperation is essential for economic growth of the region which is essential to guarantee stability on the long run and to offer young people prospects and opportunities in this region.
This regional integration is, as we French and Germans know, both a reason for and a benefit of reconciliation. It is a virtuous circle that begins once the first – difficult – steps have been taken. Therefore, we are convinced that it would be a mistake to think that the current status quo between Kosovo and Serbia is good for anyone. It is a sclerosis and an obstacle for the development of both countries, a risk of instability for the region and for Europe as a whole.
Kosovo and Serbia are Europe, the Western Balkans are at its heart. The European Union and its Member States, at the forefront of which are France and Germany, offer strong support to Kosovo and Serbia, which are destined to integrate into our Union.
So today we invite Kosovo and Serbia to use this inspiration to fully engage in the dialogue facilitated by the EU and Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák. This is the best path to peace, prosperity and towards the EU. It is in this dialogue that constructive proposals must be made, which preserve the future and the mutual interests of both countries, as well as of the citizens of both countries. It is through this dialogue that trust can be built, with respect for each other and for past and future agreements.
France and Germany will continue to be there to support the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia as well as all the reforms that bring both countries closer to European integration, for the benefit of democracy and all European citizens.