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No Time for Nostalgia

France and Germany have every reason to celebrate the miracle of their friendship, sealed forty years ago by the Elysée Treaty. But they have no reason to be satisfied with its current condition. Neither has Europe.

For most of modern history, the Franco-German antagonism-the two countries' so-called "hereditary enmity"-haunted Europe and the world. In his famous University of Zurich speech in 1946, Winston Churchill urged that "The first step in the re-creation of the European Family must be a partnership between France and Germany." Franco-German reconciliation, guided by the leadership of men like General Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, made post-war Europe's amazing successes possible.

The last landmark in the Franco-German partnership was the Treaty of Maastricht, concluded in 1991. Reunited Germany surrendered its beloved currency, the Deutsche Mark, to boost European integration, but also to calm French fears that Germany was poised to establish monetary hegemony over the continent.

However, the legendary tandems of the past-de Gaulle and Adenauer, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl-have not been succeeded by a comparable duo. This is not only a problem of personal chemistry between Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder. The deeper cause of recent estrangement and national rivalry has been German reunification, which disturbed the bilateral balance.