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Franco-German Friendship in the 1970s (retrospective account)

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The emphasis of joint policies by Valéry Giscard and by me lay within the European Community. Thus, Valéry and I were able to win over our colleagues in the governments of the other member countries and establish – in addition to the growing multitude of sessions of the EC Council of Ministers – the European Council of the heads of government. By now, all decisive directives come from the European Council, which at first greatly constrained the importance of the administration in Brussels and the national bureaucracies. The European Council, though, as is the case with world economic summits, has unfortunately been watered down again by the preliminary participation of both Brussels and the national bureaucracies and by the too intimate proximity of television reporters.

Giscard and I have also been able to convince our colleagues of the necessity of creating real democratic legitimacy for the EC parliament, so that its representatives are elected by direct vote instead, as was the practice to date, of being delegated by the national parliaments. But it will take another few years before this parliament learns to take full advantage of its political control functions.

Our most difficult joint project was the creation of the European Monetary System (EMS).* It served several purposes at once. For one thing, it was clear that a common market with a dozen different currencies and several dozen frequently charging exchange rates between the various currencies of the EC countries was limited in its ability to facilitate the major advantages in economics and prosperity that could be expected of a single market. Also, it was clear to us that a majority of the European currencies, when left to their own resources, cannot stand up to the turbulence of the world economy, the global monetary confusion, and in particular the weakness of the US dollar. And thirdly, we considered the later creation of a common European currency as an indispensable necessity for the internal strengthening of the European Community (today EU).

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* I have already reported extensively on this in my book Die Deutschen und ihre Nachbarn [The Germans and Their Neighbors][Original footnote].

Source: Helmut Schmidt, Weggefährten. Erinnerungen und Reflexionen [Fellow Travellers. Memories and Reflections]. Berlin, 1996, pp. 257-69.

Translation: Allison Brown

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