Courtesy Reuters

The Franco-German Entente

Thirteen years ago, in January 1963, Konrad Adenauer, 87, arrived in Paris to sign the Franco-German friendship treaty with Charles de Gaulle, 73. The "mystical communion" between these two old Catholics was strong enough that not even de Gaulle's veto of British entry into the Common Market the week before could stay the signing. Both men also shared the same political belief: Europe was no stronger than the bonds that linked France and Germany. It was a far-reaching treaty, unique for both countries in the kind of consultative machinery it set up. Yet de Gaulle's veto of Britain did, in fact, send it into a quick eclipse. A few months later Adenauer and his "German Gaullists" were gone, Chancellor Ludwig Erhard and Atlanticism had arrived, the Bundestag had added a preamble to the treaty that de Gaulle told Willy Brandt was a "personal offense," and the General, wearily, would remark that treaties, like young girls and roses, faded all too quickly.

Fade it did, but not away. Thirteen years later it remains the foundation of a relationship that has not ceased to evolve. The treaty has been severely tested, and in the worst days of Gaullist excess and German indifference was almost forgotten; but the mechanisms were still there, ticking away, so that the meetings went on, the consultations, the discussions, the negotiations. The treaty survived Erhard. It survived President Georges Pompidou, no more than an interlude in French history, a regent. It survived Brandt, who, with Ostpolitik to occupy himself with, did not have much left over. It survived Michel Jobert, a foreign minister who learned everything from the Gaullists except the one thing they never understood: you cannot make the Germans choose between France and the United States.

Throughout the years of estrangement, the process continued, the contacts deepened. "We leave Paris at 12, are in Bonn by 1:30, negotiate three hours and are back home for dinner," explained one official who knows the mechanisms well. By the time Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and President

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