Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Shaping Europe: France, Germany and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysee Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics: Books

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Shaping Europe: France, Germany and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysee Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics: Books

Article excerpt

Shaping Europe: France, Germany and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysee Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics. By Ulrich Krotz and Joachim Schild. Oxford University Press. 368pp, Pounds 55.00. ISBN 9780199660087. Published 20 December 2012

A London drawing-room recently witnessed a moving little ceremony. A senior diplomat from the French Embassy had the task of conferring a decoration - the Legion d'honneur - on his counterpart from the German Embassy: remarkably, the Frenchman made his short speech in fluent German, and the German responded in flawless French. This was a good example of the "symbolic acts and practices", as Ulrich Krotz and Joachim Schild call them in their stimulating study, that form part of a determined Franco- German effort to create an indissoluble partnership.

As the authors rightly observe, much of the vast literature on the structure and functioning of the European Union focuses either on the "Brussels" institutions at the centre, or on the attitudes and policies of individual member-state capitals - Paris, Berlin or London - or, of course, on the interactions between the centre and these national "actors", considered sometimes individually and sometimes in shifting groups. The originality of the approach adopted by Krotz and Schild is their insistence that these conventional levels of analysis miss a most important element in the EU's decision-making process: the fact that two key member states, by coordinating their policies as systematically as possible, have for many years been able to form a power centre exercising great influence on what the EU agrees to do or not to do.

There are numerous studies of the EU's Franco-German "tandem", "motor" or "axis" and its central role in Europe's integration that have chronicled and explained events thoroughly, but they have offered no analysis as precise or as systematic as this of how exactly the "embedded bilateralism" between Paris and Bonn/Berlin works, and why it is often (although by no means always) effective.

The authors group their account of the basic factors at work into three areas of activity. First, there has been the "regularized intergovernmentalism" stemming from the Elysee Treaty signed by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and President Charles de Gaulle in 1963, involving almost incessant bilateral summit meetings and contacts, coordination between French and German government departments, and long-term exchanges of civil servants. …

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