Letter: De Gaulle was no special friend

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The Independent Online
NEAL ASCHERSON is wrong to credit de Gaulle with the founding of the special relationship between France and Germany ('The special relationship that will survive all tiffs', 21 February). The most significant indicator of the spirit in which de Gaulle signed the treaty was the fact that, despite a commitment binding both countries to discussion of major foreign policy, he unilaterally announced, just days before the Franco-German Treaty was to be signed, his first veto of Britain's application to join the EEC. This in the knowledge (and even perhaps in defence of the fact) that the German Bundestag had added a preamble to the treaty in which the desirability of British membership was explicitly asserted. The Franco-German Treaty of 1963 was not what made the idea of Franco-German reconciliation become flesh; it was merely an attempt to salvage some of the General's lost pride after his failure to impose on the other Community countries his own vision of 'L'Europe des Patries'.

The legacy of Franco-German friendship and reconciliation was left by Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, whose belief in the need for a united Europe led to the creation in 1951 of the European Coal and Steel Community which was the forerunner of the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, more than a year before de Gaulle returned to active political life.

The strength of the Franco-German relationship and its centrality to Community affairs owes far more to the efforts of Valery Giscard d'Estaing and Francois Mitterrand, made irrespective of the treaty, which has served largely symbolic purposes.

Susan Collard

School of European Studies

University of Sussex