Yesterday (22/01/2018) the leaders of France and Germany met at the small town of Aachen to sign the Franco-German Treaty on Cooperation and Integration. The mainstream media have been largely silent on this event for two reasons; firstly, they’re aware that it’s unpopular and confirms the fears of Euroskeptics within and without, and; secondly, other European and global issues, depending on where you get your news, have dominated the landscape, conveniently burying what is a great stride towards total European integration.
President Macron and his apparent new political guru, Chancellor Merkel, have declared to the public that this treaty builds on the Elysee Treaty, signed by Chancellor Adenauer and President de Gaulle in 1963. Their words, in public at least, have attempted to frame this as part of the long-term reconciliation process between the two European giants – but in reality, this is nothing of the sort. This treaty, which has been dubbed the Aachen Treaty, is less about Franco-German relations than it is about the entire future of Europe. It stipulates integration measures in all spheres of life that go further than anything signed before, including Lisbon (2007) and Maastricht (1992).
The 26 Articles that comprise the treaty are vague, presumably deliberately so, but they offer a glimpse into the future of Europe. For instance, the treaty proposes to create cross-border “Eurozones”, which will be invented districts that straddle the France-Germany border. These are to be bilingual and governed by a unified, multinational authority. Furthermore, it proposes to integrate public services and information technology within these zones, a model that, if successful, will then be extrapolated across the remainder of Europe. It also leaves open the idea of a pan-European police force, to build upon the existing “EUROGENDFOR”, which will keep law and order across the states.
Many Euroskeptics will be particularly worried about the defence provisions contained within the treaty. It proposes to create a “common military culture” which they envisage will “contribute to the creation of a European Army”. We already know that this project is underway, but we’re now seeing the reality of the French and German armed forces effectively merging into a unified structure under pan-European command. Something called the Franco-German Security Council will be created which, as you may have guessed, will form the basis for this new pan-European command. The treaty mentions their coordination in “peacekeeping” missions, but sceptics fear this unified military force will be wielded by the European Union to put down rebellions such as the Yellow Vests in France, or to topple nationalist leaders in Hungary or Poland, for instance. This is, in fact, covered by the Treaty which promises to deepen cooperation on “internal defence”.
An aspect of this treaty that hardly anybody has picked up on is the long-standing aim of elevating Germany to permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. Whilst not unwelcome in principle, the more historically astute observers will note that this appears to be at odds with the spirit of the post-war consensus. The amalgamation of France and Germany’s armed forces is most certainly a contravention of the “Four-Plus-Two” Treaty (Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany 1990) which permanently prohibits Germany from possessing nuclear weapons.
There are other areas of the treaty that appear to point towards administrative unification of the two nation states. One major area through which this will be achieved is in the standardisation of economic regulations across the two countries; it stands to reason, then, that they will share a finance minister if economic policy is effectively identical. There are administrative provisions for this, too: part of the treaty compels the governments of France and Germany to hold joint cabinet meetings and effectively agree upon joint policies, with a view to eventually unifying the two governments under one supranational authority.
On the surface, this appears to be just another step towards European unification under a single superstate. But the circumstances surrounding this treaty and its apparently hasty proposal must be understood to ascertain other motivations at play. A cynic might argue that, as France and Germany content with nationalist revolts in their electoral system, merging their electorates would go some way to securing liberal, anti-nationalist hegemony – French nationalists wouldn’t vote for the AfD and vice versa. This is essentially based upon Aristotle’s ancient assertion that divide and conquer through diversity is a despot’s favourite tool. Democracy doesn’t function adequately amongst a heterogeneous populous.
Furthermore, Chancellor Merkel is on borrowed time so she need not reply on political capital any longer. Similarly, President Macron has little to lose as, let’s face it, he couldn’t get any more unpopular if he tried. So what we may be witnessing is liberal politicians at their most dangerous; when they have nothing to lose.
However, all is not lost. This treaty will likely anger Germans, Frenchmen and all Europeans when the true ramifications of it are known. And we should be prepared to expect more of the same in the short-to-medium term as liberal leaders attempt to hasten their project before the “nasty populists” can throw a proverbial spanner into the works. But like all tough medicine, thinks often get worse before they get better. Nationalism must simply weather the storm, ride the tiger if you like, until the liberal powerhouse offers us a glimpse of its weaker underbelly.