The Élysée Treaty in the Context of Franco-German Socio-cultural Relations

in German Politics and Society
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Even though the terms “culture“ and “reconciliation“ are absent in the Élysée Treaty, this article looks at forms of cooperation that the Treaty nevertheless generated in the fields of education and youth, as well as foreign affairs and defense. In fact, the Treaty was quite important for the development of cultural and socio-cultural relations between France and Germany and the interactions between states and civil societies. Yet, contrary to the political rhetoric often heard, the Élysée Treaty was not the “year zero“ of Franco-German rapprochement. The Treaty also has to be evaluated in terms of the new impetus it provided for societal initiatives, as well as its limits in the cultural field. The article also assesses recent debates among intellectuals in the two countries: Do the two nations still have something to share at the cultural level or have they distanced themselves from each other? Has the Élysée Treaty really exhausted its integrative capacities regarding socio-cultural matters? In sum, the Treaty has become an important framework for Franco-German socio-cultural cooperation, even if “culture“ was not its main aim, and governments are far from having been the main actors in this field. But, thanks to the joint process of consultation and institutionalization, experiments with bilateral forms of exchanges and cooperation often occurred before being re-applied to a larger framework.