Military Axis Berlin-Paris

PARIS/BERLIN (Own report) - Berlin is forging ahead with the German-French military cooperation by intensifying collaboration in air transport. In addition to ambitious armament projects, the defense ministries of Germany and France have reached an agreement last week regulating the operation of a joint air transport squadron based in Évreux (France) as well as the training of the necessary personnel. The squadron will be available to both countries' tactical air transport and supplement the large A400 transport aircraft, which will also be procured jointly by the German and French armed forces. Experts view the current cooperation - for example in the framework of the Franco-German Brigade - to be insufficient, because, so far, diverging strategic goals complicate its deployment. For his "vision of a new Europe," Emmanuel Macron, under whose presidency the cooperation is to be expanded and improved, will be awarded Aachen's International Charlemagne Prize next week.


Foreign Policy Divergences

German-French military cooperation has only been advancing slowly for a long time. Under President Emmanuel Macron, military cooperation is to be intensified, in addition to the current expansion of armament cooperation. ( reported.[1]) The slow progress is not due so much to the strategic cultural differences of the two countries' armed forces, but rather to their different experiences. Whereas the French army can draw on its long operational experience, particularly in Africa, the German Bundeswehr has only been deployed abroad since the 1990s. The German and French differences in foreign policy orientations are, however, more significant. This was recently pointed out in an analysis by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).[2] According to this analysis, the foreign operations of both states not only differ in the "means used in their diplomacy" but above all "also geographically." Whereas Germany traditionally pursues strong interests in East and Southeast Europe as well as Turkey, France sees its primary interests in Africa and the Middle East, as has become again clear with its participation in the April 14 aggression against Syria. These divergences complicate joint interventions.

Military Differences

The broader German-French military cooperation initiated in the late 1980s has produced only meager practical results. The Franco-German Brigade is a typical example. Its formation was decided November 13, 1987 and officially implemented two years later. The Brigade was first deployed in the mid 1990s in Yugoslavia, which was in the process of disintegration, and in which Germany had strong interests. Germany has consistently refused deployment serving French interests - for example in Africa - until 2014, when units of the 5000-strong Brigade were dispatched to Mali. Previously, the Franco-German Brigade was deployed in Afghanistan. The German and French soldiers were, however, stationed at separate locations.[3] It rarely happens, that two states want to intervene "at the same time, at the same place, with the same objectives," the Brigade's Commander Bertrand Boyard, explained these obvious differences.[4] The Brigade's next deployment - set to begin in the fall in Mali - will also not be integrated: Whereas French units of the Brigade will participate in the French Barkhane Operation, German units will be integrated in the European Union Training Mission Mali (EUTM) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA).

Joint Training of Troops

In the meantime, cooperation is being further intensified at base level. Berlin and Paris have agreed to organize the joint training of pilots for the large A400M transport aircraft. The plane is jointly produced by Germany and France - with the inclusion of Spain and Great Britain. Both countries' air forces have acquired more than four dozen of these planes. Armament cooperation allows some aspects of the pilots' retraining for the A400M to be carried out in Germany and others in France. As reported by the Bundeswehr, the three months of difference training will be carried out at the Airlift Squadron 62 in Wunstorf, Germany, while the tactical flying will be taught at the Transport Flight School in Orleans, France. The latter permits German pilots to incidentally practice particularly long flights. According to the German Air Force, one German pilot also flew to New Caledonia, the French archipelagos in the Southwest Pacific.[5]

Joint Military Transport

Close cooperation in tactical air transport is also planned. Germany and France have already initiated the creation of an integrated air transport squadron, which will be equipped with four French and six German C-130J Hercules transport aircraft. They will be responsible for transport flights to airfields too small to accommodate the A400Ms. The air transport squadron will be set up in Évreux, France, where, in 2021, both pilots and ground crews will be trained. A German-French training center is also planned. The Bundeswehr plans to dispatch 200 soldiers to the squadron, due in 2021 to be preliminarily, and in 2024 fully combat ready. According to planning, both the cockpit and ground crews will be bi-national.[6] January 15, the first C-130J was delivered to France. On hand at the reception, alongside France's Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, was the Chief of Staff of Germany's Air Force, Lt. Gen. Karl Müllner and the Director General for Planning of the German Ministry of Defense, Lt. Gen. Erhard Bühler.

A New Europe

Like the intensified armament cooperation and the implementation of economic reforms modeled on Germany's Agenda 2010,[7] expansion of military cooperation is an aspect of France's adaptation to the German government's EU concepts, which French President Emmanuel Macron began implementing immediately after taking office. For this, Macron will be rewarded and he will receive the International Charlemagne Prize of the City of Aachen on Mai 10 in Aachen's Town Hall. He was chosen "in recognition of his vision of a new Europe," and as "a courageous pioneer for the revitalization of the European dream," the Board of Directors of the Charlemagne Prize Society for the Conferring of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen write: "In the person of the President of the French Republic, the Board of Directors offer acknowledgement and encouragement to a source of hope for a new chapter in the success story of a united Europe."[8] As can be seen from Macron's domestic reforms as well as his foreign and military policy cooperation with Berlin, the "new Europe" is a Europe patterned after the German model.


[1] See also Die Rüstungsachse Berlin-Paris.

[2] Claire Demesmay (Hg.): Vorteilhafte Verschiedenheit. Zeit für gemeinsame außenpolitische Initiativen von Frankreich und Deutschland. DGAPkompakt Nr. 9. April 2018.

[3] Thomas Wiegold: Deutsch-Französische Brigade: Getrennt marschieren, getrennt schlagen, getrennter Einsatz im gleichen Land. 29.01.2018.

[4] Thomas Hanke: Der Prototyp der europäischen Armee. 05.02.2018.

[5] Deutsch-Französische Freundschaft im Cockpit. 28.04.2018.

[6] Erste C-130J für deutsch-französischen Lufttransportverband. 15.01.2018.

[7] See also "So deutschfreundlich wie nie zuvor".

[8] Karlspreis 2018: Begründung des Direktoriums der Gesellschaft für die Verleihung des Internationalen Karlspreises zu Aachen an den Präsidenten der Französischen Republik.