With the Brexit date drawing closer, news from Europe seems to have darkened into a constant flow of negative images.
Milestone moments like Jan 22, 1963, when then French President Charles de Gaulle and then German Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the treaty on French-German cooperation, seem to be a long time in the past.
This treaty, today simply called the Elysee Treaty, set out a fundamentally new course for Franco-German relations, as a lesson drawn from two bloody wars in the first-half of the century.
What for centuries had been regarded as a traditional enmity between the two states was able to develop into reconciliation and Franco-German friendship. The two states at the centre of confrontation in Europe became the engine of European integration.
The 56th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty on Jan 22, 2019 puts the spotlight on the next chapter of this success story, our bond of friendship tomorrow being renewed by “Elysee 2.0”, a new bilateral agreement to join forces even closer.
With tomorrow's signing of this new ambitious treaty in Aachen, Dr Angela Merkel and Mr Emmanuel Macron make clear that Germany and France want to face the European, foreign, security, social and economic policy challenges ahead together and take our partnership to the next level.
The new bilateral treaty will significantly intensify Franco-German cooperation on foreign and security policy, particularly in the European Union and the United Nations. Both countries have reinforced their military cooperation with the adoption of a mutual defence clause and setting up of a joint unit for peace operations abroad.
With Germany just having started its 2019-2020 term as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and France as a permanent member and chairman of the Group of 7 this year, Singapore, with its strong commitment to multilateralism, a rules-based international order and free trade, will remain a strong partner in our endeavour in the UN and other international fora.
Beyond aiming to help make Europe capable of taking action, the focus of the new Franco-German treaty is best described as “jointly safeguarding the future”.
Pooling our strengths translates into ensuring our countries are well equipped to face future challenges in fields such as digitalisation, education and technology.
These focus areas are also of crucial importance to Asean's path towards becoming the fourth-largest global economy.
During its Asean chairmanship last year, Singapore has considerably contributed to Asean's progress in building a resilient and innovative community making use of opportunities arising from the digital revolution.
Just like Europe, Asean needs to pool ideas and resources to tackle complex and unprecedented challenges ahead, with the Asean Smart Cities Network adopted during Singapore's chairmanship being such a collaborative platform to improve the lives of Asean citizens.
As Asean coordinator for relations with the EU and a strong ally, Singapore, we are hopeful, will play a major role in building up a strategic partnership between the EU and Asean.
In the case of Germany and France, a “Joint Citizen's Fund” that opens up new opportunities for encounters, digital platforms and media cooperation projects will be established, with the long-term goal of creating a common cultural and media space and a European public area that can stem the growing tide of populism.
In order to improve our connectivity and people-to-people ties, we will develop cross-border projects focusing on areas such as healthcare, day care for children, schools and vocational training, cross-border job placement services and transnational infrastructure projects, the goal being to jointly develop innovative European solutions contributing to foster European integration.
France and Germany will also increasingly coordinate their economic policies, step up joint efforts to fight climate change and develop strategies to transform their economies. All this will make day-to-day life much easier for our citizens and further deepen cross-border cooperation.
Germany and France firmly believe that closer cooperation need not come at the cost of national sovereignty, but instead makes countries stronger together.
Our countries are pooling their strength and demonstrating their commitment to a strong and sovereign Europe - just to cite one example: 10 among our French and German Cultural Institutes abroad, the Goethe-Institute and the Institut Francais, will be gradually merged by 2020 to underline what unites us.
More and closer cooperation instead of protectionism and withdrawal from international commitments, “Europe United” instead of “me first”.
Our bilateral cooperation is designed to advance the European project and not meant to exclude others. Thus, the new French-German Treaty signed tomorrow in Aachen can serve as a nucleus for European cooperation.
• Ulrich A. Sante is the German Ambassador to Singapore while Marc Abensour is the French Ambassador to Singapore.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019.