Heavy accusations were made against Emmanuel Macron in the days leading up to the signing of the Aachen Treaty with Germany. On 21 January 2019 the official website of the Elysee had to publicise a press release to deny some fake news that had been created around the Aachen Treaty (Traité d’Aix-la-Chappelle). The opponents of the French President had claimed several times to see in this text an attempt of Emmanuel Macron “to collapse the power of our country.” However, are these accusations founded? What does the agreement really envisage?
The Aachen Treaty: origin and purpose
The Aachen Treaty is a bilateral agreement between France and Germany. On 22 January 2019 the Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President Emmanuel Macron signed a cooperation treaty in the coronation hall of Aachen City Hall. The agreement’s full title is “Treaty of Franco-German Cooperation and Integration” and, as it appears from the name, its goal is to renew and reinforce the cooperation between two EU states.
No one has ever hidden his existence: Emmanuel Macron had launched the idea in 2017 and, for about a year, France and Germany negotiated the content (in a confidential way, as has been the practice of diplomacy for centuries). This agreement represents the prosecution of an old document: the Elysee Treaty. It was a friendship’s treaty between West Germany and France, signed by President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer on 22 January 1963 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Thanks to the signing of this agreement, France and Germany had established a new relation that ended the rivalry arose from the Second World War.
This document was the draft for what became later the Franco-German motor on the European level. The renewal of this alliance shows that the EU’s main axis remains strong “to face the challenges Europe will be confronted to in the 21st century”, as Macron’s office sad, according to Euractiv. France and Germany want to represent the stronghold in Europe against the growing of the Eurosceptic nationalism.
The treaty covers a wide range of areas in which the cooperation between these two states is fundamental, including all major decisions concerning security and foreign policy. Other sectors of cooperation include culture, innovation, health and transports. To implement the treaty, French and Germans have targeted fifteen priority projects which will be monitored by the Franco-German Council of Ministers : a new body established by the agreement “in charge of verifying the effective implementation of the Elysee Treaty”, declared Sylvain Waserman (deputy of Bas-Rhin and Vice-President of the National Assembly) to Le Taurillon.
False information on the treaty
The controversy over the Treaty of Aachen was launched by the sovereignist Bernard Monot, and then pursued by right and extreme-right parties. On 11 January 2019 the Debout la France’s MEP Monot published a video by warning the citizens that Emmanuel Macron was preparing to “betray the country by selling the Alsace and Lorraine to Germany, through a secret international agreement: the Aachen Treaty.”
He continued claiming that “German will become the administrative language of these two regions. French laws, notably with regard to social protection, will no longer be applied.” The video was then gathered by Marine Le Pen, leader of Rassemblement National and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, president of the party Debout la France.
Dupont-Aignan has been the protagonist of a turnaround. He has repeatedly denounced and criticised the treaty as “it aims to leave the permanent seat of France to the UN Security Council in favour of Germany.” His video was initially shared by both extreme-right communication networks and “yellow jackets” group, but when the press started to deny those news, the leader of Debout la France quickly deleted it. Interviewed by Le Monde, he declared that he is “not interested in Aachen Treaty” and prefers “to focus on true topics.”
Marine Le Pen has also ridden the wave of discontent created around the treaty, as her colleague. She denounced the agreement as “a loss of sovereignty of France to the benefit of Germany.” In a video she published on Twitter, she claims that “the purpose of this treaty is to bring France out of the great powers’ rank and to make it a second-rate country.”
As previously mentioned, the official website of Elysee had to publish a press release to prove wrong all these fake news. Both the title and the first sentence set the tone: “No, Alsace and Lorraine will never leave France…” The statement did not prevent many politicians, notably from RN and Debout la France, to express their position on the subject. The main candidate of RN for the European elections Jordan Bardella, for instance, persisted against a journalist which opposed him the fact that his affirmations on the treaty were false. “But this is your opinion”, said Bardella, “we have the right to have an opinion that diverges from journalists or from the government.”
Fake news: a social scourge
“In trying to revive the ashes of a rivalry between France and Germany, those who spread the false news betray all the work of reconciliation that allows us to live in peace. They betray the memory of our ancestors who left their lives in the twentieth century conflicts and threaten our security”, concludes the text posted by the Elysee. The treaty’s purpose is to strengthen the Franco-German cooperation. “Working together is not to give up our sovereignty, but to reinforce it. France does not give up its identity”, insists the Palace.
“Marine Le Pen is ridiculous”, said on Europe 1 Nathalie Loiseau, the French Minister responsible for European Affairs. “When one is populist today, he thinks he can tell anything and the people will believe it », accused the minister, estimating that “except for some pathological conspiracy, nobody will follow nor Marine Le Pen, neither Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, nor Bernard Monot in their excesses.”
It is astonishing how “Marine Le Pen and her colleagues have propagated such false information regarding an important topic as the cooperation treaty with Germany despite, as a French deputy, the information about the Aachen Treaty is well known by all deputies”, concludes Nathalie Loiseau.
What are the populists willing to do to increase their support? The competition for the European elections has begun.
Euractiv. France and Germany to sign the Elysée 2.0 treaty https://www.euractiv.com/section/central-europe/news/france-and-germany-to-sign-elysee-2-0-treaty/
DW. In brief: What is actually in the Elysee treaty? https://www.dw.com/en/in-brief-what-is-actually-in-the-elysee-treaty/a-16520266
France Diplomatie. The Elysee Treaty in five questions https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country-files/germany/france-and-germany/elysee-treaty/
L’express. Traité d’Aix : ces politiques qui propagent des fake news https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/monde/europe/traite-d-aix-ces-politiques-qui-propagent-des-fake-news_2058603.html
Marine Le Pen alerte les français sur le Traité d’Aix-la-Chapelle : « Une trahison » ! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy9bv9VlfUA
ÉLYSÉE. La VÉRITÉ (rien que la vérité) sur le traité franco-allemand d’Aix-la-Chapelle https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2019/01/21/la-verite-rien-que-la-verite-sur-le-traite-franco-allemand-daix-la-chapelle
Le Monde. Monot, Dupont-Aignan et le Traité d’Aix-la-Chapelle : itinéraire d’une intox très politique https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2019/01/21/monot-dupont-aignan-et-le-traite-d-aix-la-chapelle-itineraire-d-une-intox-tres-politique_5412204_4355770.html
Twitter. N. Dupont-Aignan https://twitter.com/dupontaignan/status/1086337750608084993
Europe 1. « Marine Le Pen se ridiculise » avec des « énormités » sur le traité d’Aix-la-Chapelle, estime Nathalie Loiseau https://www.europe1.fr/international/marine-le-pen-se-ridiculise-avec-des-enormites-sur-le-traite-daix-la-chappelle-estime-nathalie-loiseau-3843218
Le Taurillon. Avec le nouveau Traité de l’Elysée, renforcer la convergence entre France et Allemagne https://www.taurillon.org/avec-le-nouveau-traite-de-l-elysee-renforcer-la-convergence-entre-france
Bruxelles2. Les 15 projets prioritaires du couple franco-allemand. La liste https://www.bruxelles2.eu/2019/01/22/les-15-projets-prioritaires-du-couple-franco-allemand-la-liste/