In This Review

Shaping Europe: France, Germany, and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysee Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics
Shaping Europe: France, Germany, and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysee Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics
By Ulrich Krotz, Joachim Schild
Oxford University Press, 2013, 320 pp
Purchase

At the core of contemporary Europe lies the bilateral relationship between France and Germany. These two countries have been at the center of almost every European policy initiative during the past half century, in just about every area: trade, the euro system, defense, regulation, immigration, eu enlargement, and so on. What accounts for the success of this joint leadership role, and is it likely to continue into the future? One way to answer those questions is to note that for all their cultural and social differences, the two countries are formally quite similar: both are democracies that have resolved their main internal ideological conflicts, and both face similar opportunities and external threats. But Krotz and Schild believe that such parallels explain very little and instead argue that the success of the Franco-German duo should be seen as the result of creative leadership by statesmen such as France’s Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl. They created a unique symbolic relationship, committed to the idea of overcoming past conflicts and establishing bilateral projects and consultative institutions. Franco-German reconciliation became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as publics, politicians, and officials began to expect and promote further cooperation over time.