The Gallic Heart of Europe

MADRID ‒ Europe needs a France that is proud, prosperous, and able to overcome its gloomy suspicions. We need the great country that was and will be – the France that inspired the entire world with its revolution, culture, and values. Alain Peyrefitte, the scholar, politician, and confidant of Charles de Gaulle, said that “without Europe, France will be nothing”; but, without France, Europe, too, would be nothing.

In this year of anniversaries, it is worth reflecting on France’s future. On July 14, France’s national holiday, which this year marked the 225th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, Algerian soldiers paraded down the Champs-Élysées for the first time since Algeria’s war for independence a half-century ago, a moving symbol of historic transcendence. It has also been one hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War, and 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall quickly led to German reunification.

Europe has changed much since then. Twenty-five years ago, France and the Federal Republic of Germany had similar populations of about 60 million inhabitants (like Italy and the United Kingdom). German reunification added more than 16 million new citizens from the former East Germany, making the enlarged Federal Republic the most populous country in the European Union by far.

This upset the balance of the Franco-German axis around which the EU as a whole had long turned. To avoid negative political consequences, Germany agreed to be underrepresented in weighted voting on EU matters – an imbalance in its own right that was not substantially corrected until the Lisbon Treaty entered into effect in 2009.