The treaty is often viewed as having resulted from de Gaulle's initiative, but that really rested with Adenauer. In September 1962 de Gaulle had met with the German chancellor in Bonn, and the two men discussed a wide range of issues. In the course of the meetings, Adenauer had expressed doubts about British entry into the European Economic Community (EEC). On his part, de Gaulle saw Britain as a rival to France for European leadership and sought to exclude it from Europe. De Gaulle saw a British-dominated and English-speaking EEC as a distinct possibility. In the course of their talks, Adenauer committed himself to supporting France in keeping Britain out of Europe in return for a Franco-German treaty of cooperation that would be his crowning achievement as chancellor.
De Gaulle sought to move swiftly, as Adenauer was committed to leave his post by the autumn of 1963. The signing of the treaty followed de Gaulle's most sensational presidential news conference on 14 January 1963, which marked a major turning point in his foreign policy. Angry over the British-U.S. meeting at Nassau to resolve the Skybolt Affair, in which he had not been consulted, de Gaulle turned his back on the British and Americans. He announced that he was vetoing British membership in the EEC. He rejected U.S. President John F. Kennedy's offer of Polaris missiles in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) force and announced that France would go its own way as a nuclear power. He also said that France would develop its special relationship with the FRG. While he did not declare at this time that France and the FRG would sign a special treaty, as much was implied.
On 21 January 1963, Adenauer traveled to Paris and the next day signed the treaty. The treaty provisions called for regular consultation between the heads of state of France and the FRG, with in-person meetings at least twice a year and meetings between the two foreign ministers and defense ministers at least four times a year. Officials from key ministries would meet monthly. The two leaders also pledged consultation on all important foreign policy matters with a view toward working out common policy positions. They also promised that their two countries would work closely on defense matters, would exchange personnel, and would draw up appropriate armament plans and plans to finance them. Finally, the two leaders promised to promote the teaching of the other's language and to promote cultural and educational exchanges. De Gaulle was not pleased about Adenauer's insistence that the treaty be ratified by the German Bundestag and that it contain a preamble that specified that the treaty would not militate against German commitments to the Western alliance.
Although other Western leaders criticized the pact as weakening NATO and the Western European Union, it did not have that effect. Cooperation between the two states did continue, and on 22 January 1988 French President François Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl marked the treaty's twenty-fifth anniversary by signing a new treaty that established joint councils on both economic and defense issues. It established a 4,000-man Franco-German brigade stationed in the FRG.
The 1963 Franco-German Friendship Treaty was an important event in European history. While more symbolic than substantive, the treaty nonetheless marked the end of centuries of rivalry and hostility between the two states and their intention to take the lead in the creation of a united West European community.
Spencer C. Tucker
Macridis, Roy C., ed. De Gaulle: Implacable Ally. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.; Prittie, Terence. Adenauer: A Study in Fortitude. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1972.