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Overcoming Franco-German rivalry

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  • Franco-German reconciliation was seen as the first challenge for establishing lasting peace in Europe and as a base on which to build greater collaboration between the countries of Europe. Robert Schuman, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the present EU, established this requirement as a starting point for the process of European integration.
  • The three major conflicts that pitted these nations against each other were: the Franco–Prussian War (1870 – 1871), World War I (1914 – 1918) and World War II (1939 – 1945). One of the most important territorial disputes during these clashes centred on the ownership of Alsace and Lorraine. These two regions, which are currently French territories, passed into German hands in 1871. Later, in 1918, they were returned to France by the peace treaty of Versailles, but were again temporarily annexed by the Germans between 1940 and 1945.
  • Overcoming the rivalry between France and Germany was seen as a basic requisite for beginning the task of building a united Europe. In fact, historically speaking, the Franco-German axis has been the main driving force behind European integration.
  • On 22nd January 1963, the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the French President Charles de Gaulle signed what was called the Élysée Treaty. This treaty definitively sealed their friendship and established the bases for cooperation between the two countries.
  • As a sign of how this conflict had been overcome, in 2006, the educational authorities of both countries jointly presented a book on Franco-German history aimed at secondary school students in both countries.

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