Firstly, symbolism matters. In the EU, with its parliament modelled on the Tower of Babel, it matters a lot. So we start with a brief overview of the time and location selected for this treaty signing.
The date is the 56th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty in 1963. Called "One of the cornerstones of European stability" by Der Spiegel, this was the culmination for four years of work to bring reconciliation to the former enemies. The signing ceremony was described by Der Spiegel thus:
Finally, on Jan. 22, 1963, the spectacular developments came to their resounding climax: Under the lights of the mighty crystal chandeliers of the Murat Salon at the Elysée Palace in Paris, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle signed the Franco-German Friendship Treaty calling for permanent, close cooperation on foreign policy, cultural and youth affairs.
After the signing, the reactions by the two leaders were almost stereotypical: On the one hand there was the passionate Frenchman, who enthused, "My heart overflows and my soul is grateful that I have signed this treaty with the chancellor. No-one on this planet can fail to appreciate the immense importance of this act. It not only turns the page on a long and bloody era of fighting and war, but also opens the door to a new future for Germany, for France, for Europe and therefore for the world!"
On the other hand there was the sober German, who uttered just a single sentence: "General, you have spoken so eloquently that I cannot add anything to your words."
As as for the location, it has yet deeper meaning. Aachen was the city where no fewer than thirty one Holy Roman Emperors were crowned. Called by its French name, Aix-la-Chapelle, it was the capital of Charlemagne, who is often called the "Father of Europe". It was also the place where he died in the year 814.
Furthermore, it has been the place of signing for key international treaties before. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was a multi-national agreement involving principally Great Britain and France. It was signed in 1748 and brought an end to the War of the Austrian Succession. It settled none of the deeper issues and did not bring lasting peace.
More positive and perhaps more relevant is the "Aachen Compromise" of 1818, which regulated Great Power politics in Europe for the following 32 years, up until the Crimean War ended the peace. A notable feature of the latter was the presence of secret protocols. Is this historical practice is about to be revived, perhaps?.
In summary, the leaders of the two key nations in continental Europe are meeting on a date symbolic of the post-war EU enterprise and at a location symbolic of past European Empire creation. This is significant. It could herald a sudden acceleration in the integration of the continent of Europe. With that in mind we next turn to the statements made concerning the content of the present day Aachen treaty.
The Times reported that:
Paris and Berlin herald new era of integration
Two nations to share defence, foreign and economic policies
The German Federal Government summarised the significance as follows:
Germany and France conclude the Treaty of Aachen
France and Germany aim to address the challenges of the 21st century together – with close coordination of European policy, robust common foreign and security policy and an economic area with common regulations.
Reuters took a limited and short-sighted view:
BERLIN - France and Germany have agreed to deepen a 1963 treaty of post-war reconciliation in a bid to show that the European Union's main axis remains strong and counter growing eurosceptic nationalism among some other members
But then they go on to describe matters of more than temporary political convenience and constitutional housekeeping:
"Both states will deepen their cooperation in foreign affairs, defence, external and internal security and development and at the same time work on strengthening the ability of Europe to act independently," states the treaty text, seen by Reuters.
Deutschland summed up the impact as follows:
State Premier Armin Laschet (Christian Democratic Union party) called the decision to sign the new friendship treaty designated as the "Aachen Treaty" as an "unprecedented historical acknowledgment of the role of North Rhine-Westphalia. Out of the Elysee Treaty will come the Aachen Treaty: the renewal of German-French relations here, the city of Charlemagne,
The headlines reveal the main issues: Defence, economic and foreign policy: all of which are to be further unified.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement on 9 January:
Together, Germany and France are spelling out that now in particular we need more – not less – cooperation in order to resolve the questions of the future.
In less than a year, we have successfully negotiated an ambitious new treaty, thus realigning our relations with a view to the future.
Our aim is to improve our citizens’ daily lives. To this end, one of our goals is to provide concrete and practical solutions in the border regions. We also want to further intensify our joint efforts at the international level on behalf of peace and security, in the UN Security Council and beyond.
The European Union remains the key element of our friendship. In the Treaty of Aachen, we express our commitment to a strong, sustainable and sovereign Europe.
Feeling this was insufficient perhaps, he also issued this longer statement the same day, which included:
And we are joining forces to fight for a strong Europe, that is capable of taking action, a peaceful world and a rules-based international order.
At a time when populists once again propagate national egotism as the way forward, we also want to send a strong message that our cooperation does not result in a loss of sovereignty but rather makes us stronger.
Germany and France will thus not only remain committed to the success story that is European integration. We are also laying the foundations for the next generation to continue on this path.
Details (the few that we have)
The Reuters report contained this:
"Both states will deepen the integration of their economies towards a German-French economic area with common rules," said the treaty text, referring also to calls for the harmonisation of economic law. In addition, they will set up a panel of experts to give economic recommendations to each government.
Now I know what you are thinking: "Isn't the EU already an economic area with common rules?" We must conclude something else is intended here, some further major removal of national economic self-determination.
The German Federal Government plainly states that:
Working together for peace and security:
Under the new treaty, military cooperation is also to be stepped up. This will include the development of joint strategic approaches, including the design of the European Defence Union.
So we are all clear - this treaty will accelerate the Planning of the EU Military Union. It has been formally confirmed by the German Federal Government and nobody can say we did not know.
Intriguingly, they also reveal the end of national borders as functionally significant administrative boundaries:
Forward-looking solutions for integration in Europe:
To improve the everyday life of citizens in border regions, concrete and practical solutions are to be made available. Local actors will be given the opportunity to establish cross-border projects such as nurseries, education facilities, emergency and health services, and industrial estates.
And what has the excellent work of David Ellis told us about EU Military Unification? It starts with industrial capacity and equipment procurement. Defense News has revealed that weapons, for export at least, form part of the agreement:
COLOGNE, Germany — The German Cabinet has approved a new, high-level pact with France that calls for a common approach to weapons exports in all joint programs.
The objective is included in the so-called Aachener Vertrag, slated to be signed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the German city of Aachen on Jan. 22.
The intension is that both the French and German Parliaments will ratify the treaty the same day that it is signed.
In the coronation hall, in the City of Charlemagne, in just six days' time— Europe will change.