It isn’t and never was. It was designed as a means to stifle European democracy by giving de Gaulle power over German resources. It was designed to control Germany, to mobilize the populations including the youth to support the Gaullist government and grant de Gaulle non-democratic powers. De Gaulle closed down all European democratic institutions. His plan was to destroy them if possible.
That is far from a Community approach. De Gaulle treated all the other Community States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Italy as children. Above all he wanted to harness Germany and its economic power. He feared democracy especially European democracy or supranationality.
He told his Minister of Information Alain Peyrefitte: ‘supranational integration is going to allow the Germans to teach the French organisation and discipline. All that is monstrous! Monstrous!’
Is the Elysée Treaty the centre of European action? Did European reconciliation start with de Gaulle’s action? No. European reconciliation clearly started when Germany was allowed to enter the Council of Europe as a normal member and become an active member of the European Community in 1950.
Germany got equality from these institutions that Schuman and the Founding Fathers of Europe created. From the Elysée Treaty Germany gave its acquiescence to pay for Milk Lakes, Butter Bergs and Meat Mountains to support the French farmers’ votes for de Gaulle.
Was Adenauer fooled by the Elysée treaty subterfuge? No, he was not. But he went along with it because he needed de Gaulle’s support for his pro-western policy. De Gaulle had the key levers: the veto to make sure that any democratic State would not enter the European Community. Thus Norway, Denmark, UK and other countries were refused and Germany had to deal subserviently with France as the main power-broker. All democratic institutions of the Community such as the Parliament, the Consultative Committees were frozen or to use de Gaulle’s word ‘chloroformed’.
Did the Elysée Treaty bring Franco-German reconciliation? As Adenauer acknowledged, Franco-German reconciliation was accomplished more than decade before de Gaulle by Robert Schuman.
He wrote in September 1962:
Dear Mr Schuman,Europeans – including both French and Germans should be highly suspicious when governments spend such money on political folderol and ignore historical facts – such as the sixtieth anniversary of the EU institutions. The real celebrations of reconciliation, European integration and democracy never took place last year.
During the visit of General de Gaulle last week, I often thought of you as the man who by his initiative of the Coal and Steel Community, laid the real foundations of the friendship which at present unites our two countries. It is with gratitude that I always think of our joint work. I would dearly like to express to you, especially in the present circumstances, my appreciation. It would be a great joy for me if it were possible for us to meet again. Rochefort: Robert Schuman, p359.
Just ask the politicians who are busy spending French and German tax money:
Who was the first President of the European Community’s Council of Ministers?Do they know? It was Konrad Adenauer who presided over the first Council of Ministers on 8 September 1952. France sat at the table while Adenauer, the German Chancellor, banged the gavel!
Adenauer had no need to celebrate reconciliation more than a decade later. The treaty only marks the fact that de Gaulle had to recognize the European Community as a fact that he could not destroy. It is a celebration hiding the change of policy of de Gaulle. It has nothing to do with real European reconciliation.
Before 1950 de Gaulle wanted to seize German territory such as the French occupation zone and the Saar, carve out the industrial Ruhr and draw new French borders on the Rhine. He denounced Bonn democracy and the Federal Republic of Germany as 'the Fourth Reich'.
That this Elysée Treaty celebration is political fraud on a large scale is clear from other facts of history. The Founding Fathers of the European Community also made this clear. Europe was to be based on solidarity of common objectives with the diversity of resources and the equality of States. Socialists and Christian Democrats in France and Germany opposed the treaty. The Community precludes a Gaullist-style Directoire or a secretive tête-à-tête or Franco-German axis.
This present exercise is a highly suspicious political Public Relations operation, especially given the almost total silence about the celebration of the SIXTIETH anniversary of the beginning of the Democratic institutions of the first European Community in 2012.
De Gaulle was also petty and vindictive. He forbade Adenauer from attending the funeral of Robert Schuman in Metz 1963. Adenauer had already agreed to come. Jean Monnet was also not invited to Metz. Six former prime ministers of France refused to attend in protest at the Gaullist action. Neither de Gaulle’s prime minister nor his minister of foreign affairs attended the funeral. RTF, the Gaullist controlled radio and television, hardly mentioned the event. (see Rochefort: Robert Schuman, p362.)
Is de Gaulle’s dictatorship, as François Mitterrand called it in 1964, the sort of event that real Europeans want to celebrate?