Right before the match that will decide which of the two old enemies will get one step closer to the World Cup final, it is worth remembering that at the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup, France was defeated, in the first time ever penalties decided the winner in a world cup game. Then, again, in 1986. Statistics say the German team has mostly won, against the French one. Could this, despite the analysis predicting the opposite, finally be the case when “l’Allemagne paiera”, as Clemenceau had predicted?
Throughout history, the two countries have always collided, being enemies first, but slowly developing a cooperation for the sake of Europe. The hostilities begun with the division of the Roman Empire by Charlemagne in the Verdun Treaty of 843, but the real hereditary enmity revolved around the Alsace-Lorraine issue. With the Peace of Westphalia (1648), the Treaty of Frankfurt and that of Versailles (1923), the regions went back and forth, as did the power to lead Europe. The Esprit de revanche against Germany was among the reasons behind both Word Wars.
Starting with the ECSC in the 1950s, though, the two countries found a new spirit of cooperation, fundamental to the formation of the EU. Despite the French Euroscepticism, especially under President de Gaulle, the former enemies are now considered the “core countries” of the further integration of the EU. It’s not always easy to find a common ground: both countries want to strengthen European defence forces, but Germany is cutting its defence spending. Both would like to boost the EU’s foreign policy, but France no longer supports Germany’s call for majority voting in foreign policy. On migration policies, the two countries have quite different approaches, and progress in other areas of justice and home affairs has been slow.
A new phase in the relations between Germany and France would include common environmental and energy policies, agreements on defence and economy and ultimately a combined visit around the EU, to remind populists and eurosceptics that the Paris-Berlin axis, symbol of the origins of the EU, is still strong.
Too bad their up against each other, one more time. Bets are on, about how long it will take the reporters will mention the French Resistance to the German offence to describe the game…
Maria Felicita Ferraro
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