France & Germany are deepening ties, signing a new treaty at Aachen later this month.
Politico summarises the main points here (my emphases):
FRANCO-GERMAN TREATY PREVIEW
MUST BE LOVE: Germany and France will promise each other unheard of things in the history of their post-WWII relationship. The Treaty of Aachen, which Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel will sign January 22, will make for the closest partnership between any two EU countries. Coming a few months before Britain (maybe) takes back control by leaving the EU, it’ll be a rather remarkable example of two countries doing the exact opposite: France and Germany will vow to do more together. I’ve looked at a draft of the treaty for you.
Stronghold in Council: Both countries will consult with each other “at all levels” ahead of important EU meetings and try to develop both “joint positions” and “joint statements by ministers.” The latter is currently common when General Affairs Councils discuss rule-of-law issues, but now the two countries want to do the same when it comes to security and defense, the draft says. They aim to have common positions “in all important decisions.”
Security matters: The couple vows to “jointly invest” in close European military “capability gaps,” a strong cooperation of their arms makers, and find “a joint approach for arms exports.” Get ready for quite the discussions in a new Franco-German Defense and Security Council, which the countries want to establish. It will meet “regularly at the highest level.” Take that as a sign Berlin and Paris are trying to get serious about ensuring Europe can one day defend itself without American help.
Global stage: France and Germany also want to be seen as close at the U.N.-level, aligning their presidencies of the Security Council (of which Germany became a non-permanent member for two years January 1), and wanting a reform of the institution. “The admission of Germany as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council is a priority of Franco-German diplomacy,” according to the document.
How inclusive can true love be? The above U.N. cooperation is perhaps a trifle less ambitious than if the two agreed for France to swap its own permanent seat for a European one. European governments won’t be best pleased: While Berlin and Paris stress as often as possible in the draft treaty that their love for each other is in the service of the EU as a whole, said treaty may well be received as the founding document of a very exclusive, core European club. (Berlin has traditionally been keener to avoid that impression than Paris).
Another example: The two countries will pledge to “deepen the integration of their economies,” the draft says — with the integration aiming to create “a Franco-German economic area with joint rules.” That might well translate into an internal market within the internal market.
Very practically, the two countries want more of their citizens to learn the other’s language better, with full bilingualism in the border regions a goal. The inspiration might have come from Saarland (where Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and the new CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer come from): In certain circumstances, French can now be used in courts there.
Key questions: Is this a case of two countries falling in love, or simply of Merkel and Macron getting along very well indeed? And what happens after either, or both, are no longer in charge?
Mostly EUrophile myself but a bit unnerved by some of this. The perception of the EU as a Franco-German dominated project is problematic, feeding into anti-EU populism and worrying members of the so-called 'new-Hanseatic league' including ourselves.
Economically, France and Germany have lately been talking about "European champions", blatantly meaning French and German companies; with louder calls for protectionism against "unfair competition" from China. This is not what Ireland, the Netherlands and the Nordics want to hear.
I can see rationale behind increasing military strength and co-operation (i.e. the weakening interest of the US on Europe) but it's still unnerving given Europe's bloody history and their central role in it.
Maybe this is just, finally, acceptance by France that the EU is 'multi-speed' project and there will be a core within a core.