The Political Configuration of the EU
French President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder (shown here in Berlin in 2004) both viewed close German and French cooperation as a key driver of European consensus (photo: Marco Urban).

To prepare the European Union for Eastern European expansion, European institutions and treaties had to be reformed at the beginning of the new millennium. Playing an important role in the process were the strong relations between France and Germany, especially the close cooperation between President Chirac and the Chancellor Schröder. Both states saw themselves as the motor behind European unification and deepening ties among the member states. After the Treaty of Nice was adopted in 2000, Chirac and Schröder spearheaded new measures to strengthen Europe’s political union. A European convention was convened to draft a European constitution. The draft was rejected by national referendums in France and the Netherlands, though parts of the draft found their way into the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007.  The adoption of various provisions, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights, has helped to empower the EU and make it more democratic. The cooperation between France and Germany found expression in a historically unique gesture: at the 2004 EU summit, President Chirac cast Germany’s ballet while serving as proxy for Chancellor Schröder, who had to be in Berlin for a vote at the Bundestag. The politicians also initiated the Blaesheim process, a series of informal meetings named after a commune in Alsace. Held alternatively in Germany and France, the meetings are used by the French President and German Chancellor to reach agreements before EU summits. On the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Élysée Treaty, they declared January 22 to be the day of French-German friendship.