Culture et éducation, instruments de rapprochement et de réconciliation : exemple de l’Allemagne et de la France (27/06/2016)
Your Royal Highness, Prince Norodom Sirivudh,
Excellences, members of Parliament,
Dear Daniela Dempf, Chargée d’affaires of Germany,
Mr Kuth Inserey, representing Mr Dararith Kim Yeat, executive director of the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia,
Excellencies, members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to stand in front of you today to speak about the unique relationship between Germany and France. It is an honour to do so here at the Senate and I would like at the outset to express my thanks to HE Mrs TY Borasy, for having accepted to host and support this important event. I am also grateful to Mr. Kim Yeat Dararith and his team from the Parliamentary Institute of Cambodia who have been instrumental in the organization of today’s workshop.
As you know, France and Germany were enemies for decades and their rivalry was at the starting point of the most tragic wars of our contemporary history. From that perspective, the coming 100th Commemoration of Verdun battle by President François Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of the month is a sad reminder of this troubled past . As long as the two continental powers were not at peace, the whole of Europe could not be at peace either. In less than a century, Germany and France fought against each other three times : in 1870, between 1914 and 1918 and between 1939 and 1945 with horrific consequences : millions of people were killed ; the economy was destroyed ; Europe’s position in the world changed forever.
It took almost a century for the leaders of Germany and France to realize that they had to change the nature of their relationship in order to avoid repeating past tragedies. This is why General De Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer decided at the end of the World War 2, in 1945, to put an end to this cycle of violence by betting on youth and European construction.
The Elysée Treaty, in 1963, paved the way for a lasting reconciliation and created a framework for enhancing cooperation between cities and students’ exchanges. The idea was to build a strong and sustainable union between our two people in order to overcome deep ingrained stereotypes and mistrust. The result of the youth exchange program is a tremendous success : in 50 years, more than 8 million students have taken part in these programs implemented by the French German Youth Organization.
There are today 80 000 students enrolled in bilingual curricula. Cooperation between local authorities of the two countries is unique with 25 000 on-going twining programs. There are other success stories like the French German TV channel “Arte” which is recognized worldwide for the high quality of its programs.
Let me illustrate the long term impact of these exchanges. I won’t have to look very far since my own ministry offers two striking examples. I’ll mention first of all Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, who is the epitome of the generation born after the Second World War who benefited from this rapprochement. Mr Ayrault speaks German perfectly, studied in Germany and was in fact a teacher of German before going into politics. A generation after him we have our Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, Mr Matthias Fekl who was born from a German father and a French mother.
The close relationship between our two countries is also experienced on a daily basis at the working level. Looking again at the example of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I find it quite remarkable that for a department dealing with core sovereignty issues, you find German diplomats in top positions, including one in the staff of our Minister of State for European Affairs. The same is also true for the Auswärtiges Amt, the German Ministry of Foreign affairs, where 3 French diplomats are working in German and for Germany.
Sometimes we even share office spaces overseas and, as we speak, joint premises are being built for our embassies in Bangladesh and in Koweit. Lastly, specific French-German Council of Ministers is being held twice a year alternatively in France and in Germany. They bring together the French President and the German Chancellor and their respective government to exchange on a wide range of issues, mostly European affairs and offer also a forum to propose and discuss new initiatives. As a matter of fact, at the 18th Franco-German Council of Ministers on 7 April 2016, Germany and France announced the launch of an annual Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
Besides these bilateral initiatives, the construction of the European Union was another way to make France and Germany share a community of destiny. The fact that members of what is now the European Union are bound by political, economic, legal ties contributed to encapsulate the French German relationship within a wider European framework. It was a way to escape from the face-to-face and to imagine a common and peaceful future based on rational and concrete interests.
All this doesn’t mean that everything has been or is always easy. Our two countries keep their own history, their own aspirations and their own culture and our respective governments still have different points of views. That was recently the case with the migrants coming from Syria. But on the whole it doesn’t prevent France and Germany to have a common vision as far as the big picture is concerned and on many occasions we were together to promote Europe’s fundamental interests, most recently in relation with Ukraine.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The rapprochement between of two countries was neither something obvious nor easy for us but we managed to do it. How ? Thanks to strong political will but also thanks to the rapprochement between people. We cannot speak of reconciliation as long as the people don’t see their neighbors as partners and start to understand each other better. That’s what we want to illustrate with this conference thanks to the help of Professor Corine Defrance and Professor Pia Nordblom, whom I would like to thank for their commitment to this series of activities.
We all know that relations with neighbors are complex and sensitive but geography cannot be changed or ignored. That’s why together with our German colleagues, we thought the unique process which has been going on between France and Germany could offer food for thought for decision makers. None of us is in a position to lecture others but the way two neighboring countries could learn from their tragic history and create the conditions for a lasting rapprochement can be a source of inspiration. This is what we want to share with you today.
I thank you for your attention.