Call for Global Unity on Security: Germany to Station Troops in France for First Time Since WWII

Germany will station troops in France as part their joint crisis reaction force, Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy have said. In a joint opinion piece published ahead of the Munich Security Conference on Friday, the two leaders call for greater European and world cooperation on security.

Inspecting German troops: Chancellor Angela Merkel.
REUTERS

Inspecting German troops: Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The leaders of Germany and France urged greater European and trans-Atlantic unity on global security on Wednesday and underscored their call by announcing that German troops will be stationed in France as part of the joint Franco-German Brigade, a rapid reaction force.

"Anyone who knows our common history will be aware of the historical significance of this new step in the Franco-German friendship," German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy said in a joint opinion piece published on Wednesday in Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung and France's Le Monde.

SPIEGEL reported last month that a German army battalion of 500 troops would be stationed in the town of Colmar in France's Alsace region. French media have reported Strasbourg, Metz or Bitche as possible locations.

It will be the first stationing of German troops in France since World War II. The Franco-German brigade was set up in 1989 and has around 5,000 troops that, until now, have been stationed at seven locations in Germany. It has served in Afghanistan and in the Balkans.

"Europeans Must Speak with One Voice"

Merkel and Sarkozy said international coordination on security policy was essential to tackle the Middle East conflict, the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the international financial and economic crises.

"Security policy must be interpreted in a new and broader way," Merkel and Sarkozy said, adding that cooperation on military security needed to be complemented with a joint approach on the global financial architecture, energy supply and population migration.

They said it was essential that Europe and the US deepen their cooperation given the new risks they face in the 21st century.

"That means joint analysis, decision-taking and implementation. Unilateral steps would contradict the spirit of this partnership. But it also means that we Europeans must speak even more with one voice, which requires a strong measure of discipline from the member states," the leaders wrote.

"And we must further bundle and increase our capabilities, both civilian and military. The synergy between both is the trademark of European security policy," they added.

A Rocky Relationship

The statement is a show of unity between the French and German leaders who have had a rocky relationship over the last two years with disagreements on a range of issues including the financial crisis and French plans for a Mediterranean Union.

And despite repeated displays of harmony with warm embraces, smiles and kisses on the cheek for the cameras, there have been persistent reports that the two simply don't gel on a personal level.

Their joint statement comes ahead of the 45th Munich Security Conference which runs from Friday to Sunday, an important annual gathering of senior politicians, military top brass and security analysts.

US President Barack Obama is dispatching top members of his new administration to attend the conference including Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser James Jones and Richard Holbrooke, Obama's point man for Pakistan and Afghanistan. US General David Petraeus, the head of US Central Command, is also attending. The conference will be closely watched for signs of a shift in US foreign policy under Obama.

Merkel and Sarkozy said Iran was openly speculating that the international community would stand by and let it proceed with its nuclear program. "We will not permit an Iranian nuclear bomb because that would constitute a threat to world peace," they said. "And we are ready, in line with the expected involvement of the new American government, to stop the Iranian threat with increased dialogue but also -- if necessary -- with very determined sanctions."

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