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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Lessons from two European giants’ unity : News Analysis

                                     Shakhawat Liton
An unprecedented joint visit by the foreign ministers of France and Germany to Dhaka and the topping off ceremony of the Franco-Germany Embassy in the city has made it evident that their bi-lateral relationship has reached a new height.
This has also set a unique precedent in bilateral relations between sovereign countries in the world.
It is undoubtedly a historic milestone for both the countries. They have been working relentlessly for more than five decades for this under a friendship treaty between them and as members of the European Union.
This will also have far-reaching consequences in the European Union, a political and economic union of 28 countries. France and Germany are major players in the EU.
Their unity now speaks about their strength. But things were not as positive before they got together.
There had been centuries of rivalry between the two countries. During World War II, Germany had kept Paris occupied for four years.
Devastated by World War II, some European politicians had felt the need for developing good relations with others and a mechanism to prevent the recurrence of war.
Of the leaders, Jean Monnet, a French statesman, played a crucial role in reducing the gap between France and Germany and some other European countries as a means to prevent war.
His pragmatic approach “we are not forming coalitions of states, we are uniting men” worked effectively.
He was firm in his conviction that the European nations had to unite in order to survive. “Continue, continue, there is no future for the people of Europe other than in union,” he had repeated constantly.
Jean Monnet and another French statesman Robert Schuman are regarded as the architects of the principle that the best way to start the European bonding process to prevent war was through developing economic ties.
This philosophy was the foundation for establishing the European Coal and Steel Community under the Treaty of Paris signed in 1951. France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg joined the association. The main aim of the association was to ensure peaceful use of steels, a raw material for war industries.
That was just the beginning. Since then their bonds have grown.
The association was transformed into European Union through different stages. Member states have surrendered their sovereignty to some extent to empower the EU.
Now, the laws passed by the European parliament enjoy supremacy over the laws passed by any of its member state in its respective parliament. Similarly, the judgements delivered by the European Court of Justice prevail over the verdicts delivered by top courts of any other member country.
The EU describes itself as a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. The organisation oversees co-operation among its members in diverse areas, including trade, the environment, transport and employment.
Alongside the acceleration in their bonding process in the form of union with other European countries, the French leaders' efforts opened a new era of bi-lateral relation with their rival Germany.
France and West Germany, at that time, signed the Élysée Treaty, a treaty of friendship, on January 22, 1963 at the Élysée Palace in Paris.
The treaty called for consultations between the two countries on all important questions and an effort to come to a common stance. Regular summits between high-level officials were also established since then.
That move paved the way for establishing a new foundation for relations that ended centuries of rivalry between them and that confirmed the rapprochement between the two countries following a history of warfare.
The bilateral relation between them has been growing since then.
In 2004, they celebrated the 40th anniversary of the treaty and announced to build the Franco-German Embassy. The foundation stone was laid on January 22, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty.
On completion of the construction of the Embassy building, the foreign ministers of France and Germany had flown to Dhaka on Monday in a rare joint visit.  Our foreign minister joined them.
They celebrated the construction of the Franco-German Embassy in Baridhara on Monday evening, beginning a new chapter in diplomacy.
In views of German Foreign Minister Steinmeier:  “It's a new symbol. The building we are inaugurating today symbolizes our unique friendship in unique partnership we will build on to address joint challenges ahead of us.”
Bangladesh should consider itself fortunate to become a part of this history in diplomacy. This development has also brought new opportunity for Bangladesh to take benefits from the two countries by strengthening ties with them. 
The visiting foreign ministers of the two countries also promised to stay alongside Bangladesh in its fight against climate change, and called for joint efforts to stop global warming.
Our government should make efforts to take on the opportunity following their joint visit to Bangladesh in the run-up to the climate conference COP 21 in Paris.
Our foreign ministry officials say both France and Germany have a history of friendly relations with Bangladesh. And both the countries respect Bangladesh's role in facing global challenges such as climate change.
The growth of EU and the present bi-lateral relation between France and Germany have stressed the unity of people to foster economic development and to prevent conflicts. The EU experience proves unity makes difference. Their mantra is unity.
The politicians in Bangladesh and this region should learn from their experiences to build unity among themselves for the sake of the people and also for peace.

Source: The Daily Star, 23 September 2015

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