Two of Europe’s powerhouses signed a new treaty on Tuesday that seeks to further strengthen the European Union.
France and Germany are founding members of the EU. The signing comes as the UK intends to leave the organisation.
The new treaty aspires to defend liberal values and human rights in the shade of a rising populism in the continent where far-right parties and nationalism have strengthened recently.
The new Franco-German treaty was signed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Aachen, a German town neighbouring France.
The Aachen accord comes exactly 56 years after the Elysee Treaty of friendship and reconciliation, following centuries of fierce rivalry and deadly war between the two countries.
France and Germany commonly agreed to strengthen agreeing, similar positions within the EU and expand existing co-operation.
The two countries committed to deepening economic integration by creating a Franco-German economic zone with rhythmic corporate law regimes.
In an attempt to develop Europe’s military capacities, they plan to act as a joint force at the United Nations and deploy the joint military in the region.
Underlining a wide range of cultural exchanges, Berlin and Paris project to open a Franco-German university with an aim to increase learning each other’s languages within the youth.
Macron described the Aachen accord as “Europe’s new shield” against the tumults of the world.
“I would rather look at our Europe in the face and strengthen it to protect our people. That is what we are doing,” he said.
Merkel highlighted the security issues and said Germany wanted to contribute to “the emergence of a European army.”
“We are committed to developing a common military culture, a common defence industry and a common line on arms exports,” Merkel said.
NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had been briefed on the military matters concerning the Aachen accord and gave his support.
“For decades, Franco-German cooperation has been essential for security and stability in Europe,” he said.
Donald Tusk, a Polish who is the President of the European Council, reflected his reservations on the treaty in a speech at the ceremony. He argued Germany and France should serve the whole Europe well.
“I will put it bluntly – today Europe needs a clear signal from Paris and from Berlin, that strengthened co-operation in small formats is not an alternative to the co-operation of all of Europe. That it is for integration, and not instead of integration,” he said.
Central and Eastern European states including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have denounced German-French leadership on migration, opposing open-door policy towards refugees.
“It is time to oppose the Franco-German axis with an Italian-Polish axis,” said Italy’s right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini during his visit to Poland.
Far-right French leader Marine Le Pen labelled the extent of the links with Germany as “treason” and “serious abandonment of our sovereignty.”