Thanks to Wolfgang Schäuble
Contribution by Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB, French and German members of parliament and other personalities, published on n-tv.de
Frankfurt am Main, 22 January 2024
A Franco-German homage and appeal
As a young member of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble founded the Baden-Alsace discussion group together with the Mayor of Colmar, Joseph Rey. In his last ever campaign appearances, he supported pro-European parliamentary candidates in Alsace and Lorraine. Born during the war, raised in the French occupation zone, elected in the border region of southern Baden, friendship with France was close to his heart throughout his life – as the foundation for a strong Europe.
As a minister, Wolfgang Schäuble worked in close contact with his French counterparts. He was the first German finance minister to participate in a meeting of the French cabinet at the Élysée Palace. He formulated the aspiration to always take French and European interests into account: “If a solution is good for Europe, then it is good for Germany. And if something is bad for Europe, it cannot be good for Germany”. German unity and European integration, open borders and joint security, a strong euro as a guarantee of stability – these fundamental convictions shaped his actions.
As President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, together with the then President of the French National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, spearheaded the establishment of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly on 25 March 2019 in Paris; this joint chamber, comprising 50 German and 50 French members of parliament, is the only one of its kind in the world. Both Presidents had previously signed the Franco-German Parliamentary Accord, which – some 56 years after the Élysée Treaty – adds a parliamentary dimension to the Franco-German friendship as an intergovernmental agreement, thus raising it to a completely new level. None of this would have been possible without Wolfgang Schäuble’s impassioned efforts alongside his colleague in Paris.
Even in his last interview – published on 24 December 2023, just two days before he passed away – Wolfgang Schäuble called for reviving the Weimar Triangle as a “German-Polish-French engine for Europe” and strengthening Europe’s defence capabilities: “Let’s follow this European path. Only by working together can Europe play an economic, military and environmental role in the world.“
That is his legacy. And that is why the state memorial ceremony in his honour is quite rightly taking place on 22 January, “Franco-German Day” – exactly 61 years after the signing of the Élysée Treaty and six years to the day since Wolfgang Schäuble became the first President of the Bundestag to address the French National Assembly on 22 January 2018. In that speech he described the Franco-German friendship as "a gift from history", but one owed to the vision of courageous people who, after the world wars and the crimes committed by Germany, showed the way to reconciliation. Wolfgang Schäuble said: “What has been achieved inspires us to move forward” and added “Let us use the freedom we enjoy today. Let us live up to our responsibilities as courageously as the original signatories. Together! ”
Wolfgang Schäuble more than lived up to these responsibilities, and did so honestly and tirelessly. Yet the state memorial ceremony in the German Bundestag with Emmanuel Macron is more than just a tribute to great merit. It is a mission and an appeal. It is a mission entrusted to us, as leaders in politics and society, to bring the European vision to life in a spirit of close partnership. And it is an appeal to young people to keep enthusiastically pursuing the idea of Europe. Peace, freedom and friendship cannot be taken for granted, we have to work for them again and again. As for European integration, it is far from complete and must continue to be shaped, with determination – and by those who are truly European at heart, as was Wolfgang Schäuble.
We will honour Wolfgang Schäuble's memory with immense gratitude for his life's work. We pay tribute to a great German, a great friend of France and a great European. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Wolfgang Schäuble.