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France, Germany Celebrate 53 Years of Friendship, Cooperation


By Eric Ojo, Abuja

The 53rd anniversary celebration of Elysée Treaty by the Embassies of Germany and France in Nigeria, may have come and gone but the legacies and lessons from the bond of friendship between the two countries linger on.

The Embassies of the two European countries jointly commemorated the historic Treaty which was signed in 1963 by Konrad Adeanuer, the German Federal Chancellor and Charles de Gaulle, the French President to enthrone and promote cooperation, peace, reconciliation and friendship between both countries.

The event which took place on Friday in Abuja and Lagos was well attended by friends and well wishers of both countries, members the diplomatic community in Nigeria as well as representatives of foreign and local media organizations.

The signing of the Treaty was accomplished through the resolve by the two countries to reconcile, cooperate and build an exemplary relationship after fighting series of seemingly endless wars against each other for so long.

In addition, it was also premised on the need for Germany and France to equally come together and work towards the unification of Europe which was at the point in time, smarting from the vestiges of the two previous World Wars.

Subsequently, the lofty objectives of the Treaty have been tenaciously pursued and sustained to a very large extent, by both parties, over the last five decades.

Lending credence to this development in his remarks at the opening ceremony of the event in Abuja, the Ambassador of Germany to Nigeria, Mr. Michael Zenner said  the German-French friendship is unique and clearly demonstrates how two peoples and nations who were former enemies for centuries are able to come so close together in harmony.

Mr. Zenner noted that the friendship between the two countries should serve as an example to their friends and partners around the world, adding that it demonstrated that it is always possible to come together in peace and friendship despite all historical problems.

“I think the founding fathers of the Elysée Treaty created something extraordinary, something beautiful and visionary. They brought our people together and constructed at the same time the engine of the European Integration, which guarantees peace, freedom and wealth on our continent”, he said.

He also observed that unlike the usual diplomatic agreement, the Elysée Treaty is basically all about building partnership and friendship between peoples.

He further explained that the Treaty has culminated in partnership between cities, universities, schools, the joint TV channel ARTE, the German-French-Youth-Organisation, as an implementation agency.

“Today we see the French-German-University in Saarbrücken and we have a joint History school book for students and young pupils. In my entire youth I saw this growing friendship and I am absolutely happy about it”, he added.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Mr. Denys Gauer, said  the Treaty eventually resulted in the creation of institutions and tools to foster the rapprochement, like the Franco-German Youth Office.

The objective of the Franco-German Youth Office, according to him, was to further tighten the bonds between young people in both countries, adding that 8 million young citizens have so far benefitted from such programmes since provisions of the Treaty came into force.

“Most remarkably, this effort has been maintained over all those years, in spite of the changes in the world or in Europe. Some feared that the end of the East-West divide in Europe and the German reunification could put an end to our privilege relationship and bring us back to the old rivalries.

“It did not happen. To the contrary, we went further with the European construction. We created a common currency the euro, the Schengen area and so on”, he said.

Mr. Gauer, noted that the French-German relationship over the last 50 years proves that reconciliation and cooperation towards a broader objective of political and economical integration are possible, as long as the political will and the wisdom learned from the experiences of the past remain.

The envoy further observed that the success story does not mean that Germany and France cannot sometimes have diverging view and interest, as well as leaders with diverse personalities.

“What really matters is that all of them have been aware that they cannot afford a conflict anymore and that they have always to make the necessary efforts to work out a compromise. And this Franco-German compromise will then open the way to a solution at the European level.

“That is why the Elysée Treaty remains important, and can inspire others even in Africa. But nothing is assured forever. In Europe, we are facing now new challenges: religious fanaticism and terrorist attacks, the influx of immigrants, and new populist trends, again selfishness and issues of national or ethnic identity”, he further explained.


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