Former enemies becoming best friends? It is possible! On January 22, 1963, France and Germany signed the Elysée-Treaty, formally ending a hostility that had lasted for centuries. This happened before the background of World War II, in which Nazi Germany invaded France and in which it unleashed a horrific war on Europe and the World, killing millions of people and murdering more than six million Jews. That these two nations, that had previously perceived each other as “hereditary enemies”, could overcome their hostility to become each other’s strongest allies and indeed, best friends, is a great fortune and deeply humbling.
On January 22, 2023, we celebrate 60 years of sealing an unbreakable friendship.
The Franco-German relationship has become a symbol of reconciliation. Today, we are each other’s closest partners. Our cooperation takes place on countless levels: Governments work tightly together, universities and schools exchange students, companies trade and make our countries each other’s main trading partners, people pass freely across open borders. These cooperation and exchanges have tied our nations inseparably together.
Together, we also strive to strengthen the European Union, which is the foundation of our economic success and political influence. Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine has demonstrated all too clearly how important it is to stand together in solidarity and friendship. Together with our European partners, we support Ukraine financially, militarily and provide as much humanitarian aid as possible for the people hit hard by the war. Jointly upholding the rule of law and democratic principles has become ever more important in the face of this lawless and ruthless act of aggression.
Beyond Ukraine and Europe, our two countries are strongly committed to cooperating very closely on major international issues, in favour of peace, in support of the actions of the United Nations and multilateral organisations, and to strengthen our bilateral cooperation with third countries, particularly in Africa, as shown by the recent joint trip to Ethiopia on January 12 and 13 by Mrs Annalena Baerbock, German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mrs Catherine Colonna, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
Here in Nigeria, France and Germany work together in the same spirit, defending shared values and universal principles, and pursuing joint actions aiming at the reduction of inequalities through humanitarian and development aid, the protection of human rights and cultural heritage, and the promotion of peace and democracy.
To achieve these goals, our two countries have established strong partnerships with our Nigerian friends and mobilise, every year, resources to the tune of several hundred million Euros, bilaterally or through European Union funds, to which Germany and France are the main contributors. We are also proud to be, together with the EU and its Member States, Nigeria’s first trading partner.
Through civil society organisations, companies, major cooperation bodies such as the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the French Institute and Alliances, the Goethe Institut, the French Research Institute (IFRA), a newly installed German Hydrogen Office in Abuja and many more, France and Germany have established privileged relations with Nigeria that we will continue to strengthen in the future.
As France and Germany continue along their path of friendship here and throughout the world, Nigeria continues steadily along its path of democracy. We are proud to support, together with the European Union, the ongoing electoral process and to see all the efforts and improvements that have been made to ensure the rule of law as well as free, fair and credible elections so that all Nigerians can freely express themselves, whether men or women, young or old, Northerners or Southerners, and whatever their religion or ethnicity.
Just like the Franco-German friendship, l’amitié franco-allemande, is a model to many, we strongly believe that Nigeria’s democratic tradition is an example, carrying along stability, progress, peace and prosperity for the entire region.
So today[DM1] , as we celebrate 60 years of Franco-German friendship, we join to wish Nigeria and the Nigerian people a prosperous, democratic and peaceful future and all the best for the upcoming elections!
Emmanuelle Blatmann is the French Ambassador to Nigeria while Annett Günther is the German Ambassador to Nigeria