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European Union: Britain versus Germany


Germany and France which have been hostile to hundreds of years, have created a community for peace. Is the desire to truly achieve peace is a factor that drives states to form a common community? How economical, identical and cultural interests, more importantly, political interests affect behaviour of states?

Brexit is one of the most discussed topics in the international area. Britain has experienced problems during the exit of the European Union. But Britain has also faced many problems in the process of entering the European Union. France is the country that plays the most role in the problems of Britain entering the European Union. Why did not France want the Britain – which is for long years have  moved together in political area with France- to become a member of the community however  France did not show such a behaviour like that  against Germany which is its long-standing enemy for many years?

This article will examine and evaluate the behaviour of France against the membership of Britain and Germany and it will use the French-German relations during the establishment of the community and on France’s behaviour towards Britain in the period of the first enlargement of EU when Britain joined to the Community.

Key Words

ECSC, EU, France, Britain, Germany


When we look at the historical background of the European Union and tried to summarize it with a few sentences we can describe the first period of European Union like that: ‘‘The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 1950s are dominated by a cold war between east and west. Protests in Hungary against the Communist regime are put down by Soviet tanks in 1956. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.’’[1]

The European Coal Steel Community, which laid the foundations of the European Union, was thought to be one of the steps established or jointly established to ensure peace in its chaos for many years after the Second World War. These thoughts can be depicted in the following sentences: ‘’Such a model can end successfully even with the largest wave of expansion between France and Germany, which has halted hundreds of years of hostility and even enmity between Poland and Germany. In this context, it can be called a peace project that builds peace to the European Union and even exports the peace it has built.’’[2]

1.Germany: The Enemy of Yesterday and The Friend of Today

France has lived in hostility relations with Germany for many years. After the First World War, France did not want Germany to strengthen again. ‘‘One of the important consequences of the collapse of the four empires at the end of the First World War was the fact that France was distinguished in continental Europe. However, the collapse of tsarism, the absence of Britain as a continental state, and the return of America to the policy of reconstruction could not take France away from the danger it felt for its security. France understood very well that the heavy revenge it had taken from Germany would provoke a sense of revenge of Germany. For this reason, the security issue that arose from the fear of Germany has been the dominant factors in French foreign policy since 1919.’’[3] Therefore Germany was forced to pay a heavy debt with the Treaty of Versailles to prevent Germany from gaining power again. In this way, France thought that it could provide security in the region and thought that it could get debts from Germany. But neither Germany was able to pay its debts in full, nor France could provide the security environment it wanted. Short-term peace, but after many years of conflict and war, the second world war emerged. Enmity between France and Germany increased. The long-standing war had depleted the states in Europe economically. The economy, which was already finished after the Second World War, worsened during the Cold War.

Europe found itself in the midst of an economic crisis during the Cold War. America has provided economic assistance for the development of free trade in Europe. These aids have helped the idea that an economic integration could be created in the course of the discussion of the idea of building a long-term community in Europe. ‘‘European leaders, especially those who thought that economic cooperation plays  a specific role in terms of European integration, have accelerated their efforts to achieve better results.’’[4] So the Schuman Declaration, which was the foundation of the European coal-steel community, was prepared by Schuman as a result of an information note given by Monnet to Schuman. About a year later, in 1951, the European coal-steel community was established.

France did not repeat its mistakes after the First World War. France refrained from behaving in a way that it could fight with Germany again, which it perceived as a security threat.  Rather than show a realist behaviour, with the help of interests and collaborations, after all events France acted to ensure that its long-term enemy becomes a partner.  According to the liberal tradition, economic collaborations provide more profit than the profits they can win by fighting with the states.  France tried to get economically important regions from Germany for many years, but it didn’t reach exactly what it wanted. instead of fighting this time, France decided to cooperate with Germany.  Thus, it had the right to use the resources in the Ruhr area without war, which it wanted to obtain for many years.  For France It was a great opportunity that Germany’s to take part in the community and it used this opportunity very well.  Its old enemy, Germany, had become a friend now.

2.Britain: Brexit 

The enlargement of the European Union is examined under four headings. The first development was the process of entry into the community of countries such as Britain, Ireland and Denmark in 1973, while the second enlargement addresses the process of Greece’s accession to the community in 1981. The third enlargement includes Spain and Portugal’s entry into the community in 1986. Lastly, the fourth enlargement of 1995 was the participation of Sweden, Finland and Austria.

Britain did not want to take part in this newly established community at first. ‘‘Britain did not believe in the necessity of international organization in this period, in contrast to many European countries, not to disintegrate Europe into an international conflict.’’[5] Britain believed that if it  was a member of the European Union, its  understanding of sovereignty would be in danger. There was also confidence in being an EFTA member state. Unlike other European countries, the economy of Britain was slightly better. With the impact of international crises, Britain lost confidence in EFTA. In 1961, Britain applied to become a member of the EU, which it refrained from becoming a member of it. France vetoed Britain’s application. France blamed Britain’s policies as pro-American. France was also worried about losing power in the community. If Britain joined the community, France believed that it would lessen its influence in the community.

2.1 Britain and De Gaulle

Looking at the De Gaulle period in France: De Gaulle thought that France should regain its former power and that it should gain the independence of Europe, which he thought was under Soviet and American hegomony.  In particular, he went on to separate his relations with America after the Cuban Depression and increased his interest in nuclear arming. France wanted Continental Europe to regain its former authority. De Gaulle thought that the British was not a member of Continental Europe. He didn’t want America to exist in the region therefore, he did not want Britain, which he thought pro-American so France vetoed Britain’s application in 1963 and 1967. Looking at a newspaper report in which France announced that it would veto the Britain for the second time, it follows:

‘‘1967: De Gaulle says ‘non’ to Britain – again

The French President, Charles de Gaulle, has for a second time said he will veto Britain’s application to join the Common Market. He warned France’s five partners in the European Economic Community (EEC) that if they tried to impose British membership on France it would result in the break-up of the community. All five – Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy and Germany – have said they would support negotiations towards British membership. Only France remains opposed.

De Gaulle said London showed a “lack of interest” in the Common Market and would require a “radical transformation” before joining the EEC. “The present Common Market is incompatible with the economy, as it now stands, of Britain,” he said. He went on to list a number of aspects of Britain’s economy, from working practices to agriculture, which he said made Britain incompatible with Europe. Hopes that he might offer clear terms for associate membership were also dashed. He said France would back commercial exchanges with Britain – “be it called association or by any other name” – but that was all.’’[6]

After the withdrawal of De Gaulle from the political area, Britain applied for the third time. In 1973 Britain was now a member of the EEC.

Conclusion with 4 steps

  • States always act for their interests. Even Britain, which thought that the concept of sovereignty was the most important thing, decided to become a member in line with its interests. Britain exhibited realistic behaviour because it changed its policy when it could not provide the interests it wanted with EFTA.
  • According to some international relations theories, the interests of the state leaders affect the foreign policy decisions of the states. De Gaulle’s plans for Europe show that he had dreams of restoring France to its former power, so he did not want Britain, which he thought was pro-American, to be in the community.
  • States’ behaviour towards other states is not constant and may change. Instead of the idea of constantly fighting, France chose cooperation. Germany had become a friend and left its enemy identity.
  • The interests of states may also change. But each decision brings a result. What’s good for you yesterday may be bad today. History consists of repetition. Britain, which has been working for a long time to become a member, is now struggling to leave the European Union.



 Erhan, Çagrı; Kızılırmak, Burça; Senemoğlu, Deniz, ‘‘Avrupa Birliği Temel Konular’’, 3. , İmaj Yayınevi, Ankara, 2011

Kaya,Ayhan; Düzgit, Senem Aydın; Gürsoy, Yaprak; Beşgül Özge Onursal, ‘‘Avrupa Birliği’ne Giriş’’, İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi, 3. , Istanbul,2016

Armaoğlu, Fahir, ‘‘20.Yüzyıl Siyasi Tarihi’’,  Kronik, 24. , İstanbul, 2018

 ‘‘On This Day 1950-2005’’, BBC on home, 27 November 1967, , date of access: 26 May 2019

‘‘The history of the European Union’’ , European Union, , date of access: 26 May 2019


[1] ‘‘1945 – 1959  A peaceful Europe – the beginnings of cooperation’’, The history of the European Union, European Union, , date of access: 26 May 2019

[2] Ayhan Kaya, Senem Aydın Düzgit, Yaprak Gürsoy, Özge Onursal Beşgül, ‘‘Giriş’’, ‘‘Avrupa Birliği’ne Giriş’’ , İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi, 3. , Istanbul, 2016, page 1

[3] Fahir Armaoğlu, ‘‘Geçici Barış (1919-1929)’’, ‘‘ 2- Almanya Meselesi’’, ‘‘ A) Fransa ve Almanya’’,  ‘‘20. Yüzyıl Siyasi Tarihi’’, Chapter, Kronik, 24. , İstanbul, 2018,  page: 122

[4] Erhan Akdemir, Özlem Genç, ‘‘Avrupa Bütünleşmesi’’ , Avrupa Birliği Temel Konular, İmaj Yayınevi, 3, Ankara, 2011, page 12

[5]  Akdemir, Genç, Ibid. , 39

[6]   ‘‘1967: De Gaulle says ‘non’ to Britain – again’’, ‘‘On This Day 1950-2005’’,  BBC on home, 27 November 1967, , date of access: 26 May 2019.