Would France build a Trump-style wall along the German border?

KLAUS JURGENS
Published 27.02.2019 00:45

Actually no one has suggested such a bizarre and completely otherworldly undertaking as of yet and why would any person with even the smallest amount of common sense ever do so? Yet, French politician Marine Le Pen, in power (if ever), might – or so one is inclined to believe evaluating her comments made on the occasion of France and Germany signing the Treaty of Aachen last month.

Let us be frank – the title of today's opinion piece and its hypothetical discourse in this introductory paragraph are a journalistic exaggeration. However, as we will analyze exactly what Marine Le Pen had to say about the newly signed Treaty of Aachen in comparison to what the treaty includes, one can only assume that in order to keep France for the French – and according to Le Pen, danger is imminent. stopping short of an invasion – one has to keep the Germans out. So why not copy and paste what is currently happening along the United States' southern border with Mexico?

Back to reality on the ground though: In the heated debate about the contents of the Treaty of Aachen – as a matter of fact "heated" only in the quarters of France's far-right National Rally political movement of which Marine Le Pen is the president with just a little bit of verbal support from her country's far left, too – the first thing which was deliber

ately overlooked is the year 1963. It was the year when French President Charles de Gaulle and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer laid the rock solid foundation for what would soon become the engine, the hallmark of peace and stability in Western Europe; it was the birth of the Elysée Treaty.

On the occasion of celebrating its 55th anniversary today's leaders – President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel – decided to discuss how its contents could be adapted to new challenges including business relations and climate change to name a few, hence a new treaty not duplicating the Elysée agreement but to build on it as and where it is deemed suitable.

In total, the Treaty of Aachen has six parts including a strong commitment to further foster European integration, a desire for more cooperation in relation to the work of the United Nations; it mentions the cultural domain, promotes the idea of closer regional cooperation and then deals with the issue of sustainable development in an ever more industrialized age. Last but not least, it suggests how all of this can actually be achieved in logistical terms, that is which bilateral structures would take care of which aspects and how.

To make this important clarification ever more clear let us add the summary as published by European Sources Online: "It aims to deepen cooperation and convergence ahead of the main challenges facing Europe, to further develop military cooperation and joint capabilities, to expand Europe's permanent presence in the U.N. Security Council, to further bilateral cultural and language understanding, to improve integration between the two economies." Has Marine Le Pen ever really studied the official document? Without extending any perhaps unjustified criticism, one nevertheless wonders. Here is her reaction.

Le Pen accuses Macron of treason

Out of a long catalog of "fake news" presented by Le Pen even before the actual signing of the treaty let us focus on two items: The role of both nations in the United Nations Security Council, and (former) border cooperation in general.

On the U.N. Security Council, the treaty mentions that it is a positive idea to promote Germany's justified desire to one day in the future become one its permanent members. This reflects on the democratic stature of post-war Germany and its international relations success stories, not on any untoward newly awakened German interest in world dominance. The treaty says that supporting Germany's interest in one day joining the Security Council as a permanent member is part of French-German bi-lateral policies. What the treaty does not imply is that would this ever happen that France would abandon its very own seat! To the contrary, Germany joining first means a reorganization of the Security Council which is on the cards in many capitals for decades. And this is what Le Pen had said: The treaty would pave the way to delete France's Security Council seat for good.

On the second matter Le Pen argues that President Macron piece by piece sells out France; she slams improved cross-border networking and cooperation. Le Pen accuses Macron of treason in no uncertain words yet has no single point to substantiate her claims. What the treaty says is that both the French and the German language should be promoted more proactively, that is for example German kindergartens and schools should teach more French for everyday usage, and vice versa. Le Pen only claims that people in Alsace and Lorraine must learn more German; nowhere is the mention of the word "must" in the Aachen Treaty noted. What the treaty suggests is that peoples living on both sides of the former border would benefit from ever more cultural networking and cooperation and that speaking one's neighbors language from as early an age onward as well

as possible makes good sense in this regard.

Inciting hatred in French society?

Talking negatively about a neighboring country is one thing; openly inciting hatred in society about that very same neighbor is something else. By using an otherwise noteworthy occasion of how France and Germany can further cement their almost perfect bilateral relations as fake news and completely misrepresenting the contents of the Treaty of Aachen observers have only two options on how to comment.

On the one hand there is the possibility that Marine Le Pen has no other issue left other than slamming modern Germany (and her own country for that matter) in order to cash in on anti-establishment voters ahead of the elections for the European Parliament to be held in May 2019.

On the other hand there is the even more shocking hypothesis that France's far right seriously wishes to sever ties with Germany, or at least to completely downsize how the relations are administered on a daily basis.

Her comments and the absurdity of many of her claims create negative feelings in segments of French society who would perhaps not know better and are looking for ways to punish the established parties at the ballot box or otherwise; think "yellow vests" here. If street protest paired with far-right tendencies, then coupled with far-left support, create a climate of unrest and disbelief in her country the only losers are the French people. Extremist political movements only flourish when anarchy reigns supreme.

Luckily, France is light years away from any form of anarchy even if there are temporary street protests and regardless of Le Pen's chances of winning big time in the European Parliament elections mainstream policies will continue to work out well for the benefit of her own country.

If the only option to convince voters is to declare Germany as aggressor, almost hinting at that an invasion (pun intended) is imminent, chances are that her far-right movement one day in the medium-term future will be relegated to the fringes, not becoming mainstream itself. Today's voters are highly educated and good at discovering fake news. Le Pen's anti-Germany rants were nothing but that.

So did Le Pen suggest building a border wall? Of course not, as was said in the introduction to this piece; it was about making a point. Yet what she intends is to create mental borders in the minds of her electorate – and this is indeed equally shocking and disturbing.

* Political analyst, journalist

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