Large and medium-sized countries… and their policies


Fifty years ago, France and Germany took a big step. In 1963, French President Charles de Gaulle and Germany’s first post-WWII Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed a historic agreement. Known alternatively as the Élysée Treaty or the Treaty of Friendship, this agreement set the pace for a crucial partnership that remains solid to this day. Since then the two countries fostered the ideals of European economic integration and political unity.

Without French-German cooperation, today’s EU wouldn’t be possible. It is remarkable that the person who pushed the hardest for reconciliation with Germany was General de Gaulle – commander of the resistance against the Nazi occupation.

Just like Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, de Gaulle was a major force in the restructuring of post-war Europe.

The friendship between de Gaulle and Adenauer gave a boost to cooperation between their countries. The two men met for the first time in September 1958 at de Gaulle’s country home in the picturesque village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises.

As a young journalist, I remember listening to de Gaulle making a speech in the city of Köln on September 1962 in which he described the German people as “the enemy of yesterday and the friend of tomorrow.”

The two countries are turning a new page in their relations, and should work together to establish a European entity, the French leader said.

His words carried much weight with the German audience, and not just because he spoke them in German. The moral of the story is that major changes in the world can start with small and medium sized nations, even nations that are down on their luck.

I am particularly impressed by India’s meteoric rise in technology and manufacturing. Few may have noticed, but annual trade between India and Saudi Arabia now stands at 43 billion dollars. Indians created hundreds of engineering projects in Saudi Arabia over the past few years.

The United Arab Emirates, a tiny country by all accounts, is becoming a giant on the world economic scene. Gulf countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait have used their oil surplus deftly, and are now considered major players in international banking and finance. Now these three Gulf states, aware of Egypt’s crucial regional status, have offered it timely help in its battle against political Islam.

Only Qatar seems to have taken the wrong side. But one would hope that wouldn’t be the case for long. At one point, the Qataris will notice that it doesn’t pay to stray too far from mainstream Gulf policies. Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE were willing to challenge US policies in the region. Confident in their financial prowess, and acting with the best of intentions, Gulf states decided to stand by Egypt – a decision that is in the best interest of the entire region.

Translated from Al Ahram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.