University of Louisville – Fifty Years of Peace Between France and Germany: A Celebration of the Elysee Treaty

Dr. Christian Brecht, Consul General for Germany in Chicago, Mr. Graham Paul, Consul General for France in Chicago came to the University of Louisville to explain to many students just what the Élysée Treaty meant when it was signed, and what it means now.

Mr. Graham Paul spoke of the practicalities of the Élysée Treaty, ranging from when it started in discussions, later was signed and enacted, and how it applies today. He was stationed at one point, a few years ago, in Berlin, and shared how often the French ministers and German ministers speak and work together. This, to him, means over 100 in-person visits a year (not including emails, phone-calls, Skype/video conferencing!), and that’s just for French ministers visiting in Germany (specifically Berlin).

While he made a few jokes, and shared a few cultural differences between the French and German peoples, he made sure to bring across in one of the simplest ways possible just how the common ground between France and Germany comes to light. Everything from cars to governing styles was open for ‘discussion’.

Dr. Christian Brecht came to the podium second, and right out of the gate spoke of his wife of 30-years to a ‘lovely French lady’. He spoke of how biased he must be because of his marriage, After reiterating the properties of the Élysée Treaty, he spoke of how he’s proud to be the first in his family to not be in the military like his Father, Grandfather, and Great-Grandfather, who had to “fight in senseless EU wars that brought endless suffering to so many.”

If, you don’t remember France and Germany were on opposites sides of both World Wars, not just the Second World War, so they have tried their best (and it seems to work quite well) to make sure they peacefully resolve any and all conflicts through the EU and their independent countries.

If we learn nothing from this example from former enemies, then we’re missing a rather important outlook on life.
There is always an option for peaceful resolution, always. 



Student/Visitor Questions:

Political Scientist Nathan S.
In the period since the onset of the Great Recession, it appears from the outside that the French and German relationship (yeah, he talks too fast… jeez) Have there been any changes in the way the government operations have been (yep, he zoomed through the end of his question as well. Nervous speakers are the worst.)

Answer given by Mr. Graham Paul
While the relationship wasn’t that great at the end of the 1990’s, Germany made some reforms and it helped to overcome the crisis. France is still struggling in the economic front, so it does bring some tensions to the table. What is interesting, despite all the struggles and tensions, we still work closely together.
Answer given by Dr. Christian Brecht
Each government works to pursue it’s own interests and outcomes, for the good. However, always at the end F&G come together, and try their best to find a common solution.

Both of them also spoke of the Euro-Zone Crisis, but didn’t get into it too deeply.
Harriet, originally Canadian but now an American Citizen
She asked about the Trade Partnership agreement that has just been brought around with healthcare. (This is something I have no idea about, and her question only managed to confuse me, and … well, I have no idea now)

She asked them to speak on two positive and two negative things, and considering I wasn’t able to understand the question, I’m not going to elaborate with the answers given.

Another question, coming from a professor at the University of Louisville
Could you reflect on the decades before the joint between F&G?

Answer given by Mr. Graham Paul
There is no arch-enemy, there is no rooted conflict forever … If you want to overcome, try to build something together. Try to define a common project. Try to work together. It is only by working together that you overcome the complications of a history of fighting.
Answer given by Dr. Christian Brecht
Of course, each country (regions) has to find it’s own solution. The Élysée Treaty can inspire people, to find something to work on together, and move forward.

Both speakers commented on the conflicts in Pakistan and India, Israeli and Palestinian,


Ben Hirschberg, member of the local community
What were some of the specifics in the beginning of the Élysée Treaty that helped to over come the differences between the peoples?

Answer given by Mr. Graham Paul
It just takes time. Even if you have very passionate leaders, they aren’t around forever. You need a mechanism that will move forward, that will facilitate discussions between France and Germany. Even with the crisis’ between the countries, you are not just allowed to ignore your trip to Berlin because you are required to go by a treaty.
Answer given by Dr. Christian Brecht
This was enabling exchanges, and meetings, between young people. This was something that the elder generation, let’s say, from France, were able to forgive and to make a new start with it’s warring German neighbor. It was allowing those young people in the neighboring country, to get to know one another, to get to understand how they think and feel about things…


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