"We must retain our curiosity about our neighbours."

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50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty "We must retain our curiosity about our neighbours."

At a joint session of the German Bundestag and the French Assemblée Nationale, President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel underlined the importance of the friendship between the two countries in their addresses.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande in the German Bundestag

A guided tour of the Reichstag building - Angela Merkel shows François Hollande the graffiti left by Russian soldiers in 1945.

Photo: Bergmann / Bundesregierung

The Elysée Treaty paved the way for lasting reconciliation.

François Hollande, who was the first speaker, declared that it is now important to point to new prospects that are worthy of this legacy. At the start of her address Angela Merkel traced the path from Reims to Ludwigsburg and the speech given by Charles de Gaulle to the young people of Germany.

The actions of Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer were visionary, she pointed out. The Elysée Treaty, "put Franco-German relations on an entirely new political footing," said the Chancellor. This was enormously important not only for Germany and France, but for the whole of Europe.

The sovereign debt crisis the greatest test yet for the European Union

Coming back to the present day Angela Merkel described the sovereign debt crisis as the greatest test yet for the European Union. The euro crisis colours "the way Europe is seen at the moment and it influences the lives of many Europeans," declared the Chancellor. But fifty years of Franco-German friendship have demonstrated that even the gravest problems can be overcome.

The precondition is that we remember the strength that comes from peace and liberty, and that we have the courage to make changes, she added. The Chancellor stressed the importance of finding a common Franco-German position to resolve the crisis.

Driving force for European unification

We must remain curious to find out more about our neighbours, and we must pass this on from generation to generation, she declared. "A treaty cannot force somebody who is not curious to develop an interest in the other nation," said Angela Merkel. It is the personal contacts in particular that make it possible for Germany and France to cooperate as friends.

This friendship is of enormous importance for all of Europe, she continued. Both countries have always been driving forces for European unification. The Chancellor stressed that the two states would be working together "to make sure that Europe can stand up for itself". There are "values that we share and by which we live".

Thanks to French and German soldiers

Angela Merkel declared that "security must be protected, even beyond our own borders". She pointed out that Germany is supporting France in Mali.

"We would like to thank our troops, the French and the German soldiers who are deployed at this moment, and we hope that they will return home safely," said the Chancellor.

Angela Merkel also stressed that in future major problems will have to be resolved. The encounter with German and French young people did, however, give her the conviction that, "we have the strength to overcome the challenges of the future," she summed up.