France and Germany belong undoubtedly to the pillars of European Union. Both are founding Member States and are present on almost all the fields they are required to. According to European Defence Agency figures, both countries have spent together more than 77 billions Euros in 2008, which represent more than 1/3 of the total defence expenditure within the EU.
I have decided to join both countries together, as Mr Lellouche, the French State Secretary for European Affairs did some weeks ago in the French Senate on 2nd February 2010. That day he stated that, when ‘France and Germany cannot delineate common positions, as it happened when the Yugoslav federation collapsed, consequences could be unforeseeable’. Taking stocks of such a statement implies to scrutinize those strong links, especially in the field of European Defence, as France and Germany share the ownership of the French-German brigade, of Eurocorps (along with Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg) and even train cadets of their ally.
Indeed, this idea of a sort of Janus came to me when having a look at the visible success of this partnership, while on the other side, on the conceptual side, situation seems being really intricate in various and sometime opposing interests.
On the one side the military technical level, put under pressure by the politics to prove their attachment to the French-German military cooperation stick firmly to the German-French Brigade in which they do not believe at all. For example, while the French Army intended to withdraw its regiments of this brigade from Germany, the final result was the unexpected creation, ex nihilo, of a German reconnaissance battalion, which will join its barracks in the outskirts of Strasbourg in 2010. As well, both armies share the school for the Tiger helicopters. Whereas our countries are eager to save any single Euro, money is not that important when the symbols of French-German cooperation are at stake.
However, shared symbols, even if visible, do not constitute a policy. This is completely true in fields of conventional military operations, industrial cooperation and nuclear deterrence.
Regarding military operations, the last time France and Germany have committed together their common tool, the French-German brigade, was in 2006, during Eurocorps NRF exercise in Cape Verde Islands (here). By the way, I do not include the 2009 operation in Kosovo within the brigade operations: the commander was not FGB commander, but French 1st mechanized brigade commander, BG Bras. To support this view, by going on KFOR Webpage (here) dealing with the change of command you will see on the pictures of the flag pole that French and German flags are not hoisted at the same level! May be the best proof is as well to be found on the French-German brigade website: the text explaining the creation of a German battalion in France has nothing to cope with operational and military efficiency. All the arguments are based on political considerations.
Well, regarding the field of armaments, no comment is needed. I would like somebody to name a major common equipment of both defence forces. Nothing relevant has happened since the moment France and Germany started with the development of the Tiger. When saying nothing relevant, I mean a coherent program, which would significantly improve interoperability between our troops, which are supposed to fight side by side.
However, there is may be something more important than simply interoperability, even if interoperability is a key for operational and tactical efficiency. The most important thing is the perception of our future. While German political parties all aim at the creation of a common European army, France is far from being in this direction. In the French defence white paper, largely inspired by the French current majority, one can read that France will any preserve its autonomy of decision, which is a fundament of national sovereignty. So if Germany wants a European Army, who will decide? German constitution is clear: this is a matter of the national parliament. How can you set up a European army, when from the two major partners, the one claims full autonomy and the second one integration under the control of the parliament?
Then regarding nuclear deterrence, German has expressed itself in favour of a Europe free of weapons of mass destruction, while France says that “deterrence remains an essential fundament of French strategy. How is it possible to make compatible such different policies?
Therefore, this Janus face of France and German common defence policy really seems having become more important than addressing the real issues and asking the parliaments to answer those critical questions if we really want Europe to go forward.