- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

BERLIN France and Germany will announce today a revolutionary proposal for dual citizenship between the two powers that would allow their citizens to hold passports of both countries and vote in each other's elections.
The plans will be declared officially when 577 French members of parliament and 603 German lawmakers come together in Versailles for their first joint session to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Franco-German cooperation.
Other items on the agenda include the appointment of representatives from each country to coordinate bilateral policy, moves to harmonize laws and a plan to hold joint Cabinet meetings.
The dual-citizenship declaration formulated by President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder applies to citizens of France or Germany when they are living in the other country.
The purpose is to outline the nations' vision of close cooperation, which in the past month has accelerated at a speed that has startled much of the rest of Europe. It is being presented as a model and initial step toward the goal of future European citizenship.
German parliamentary President Wolfgang Thierse welcomed the proposal, which lawmakers say is likely to take years to realize.
"Dual citizenship looks toward the aim we all have of citizenship of the European Union," Mr. Thierse said. "If Germany and France go ahead in this way, then this is yet another step to getting Europe moving toward the future."
German government sources said the creation of dual citizenship would be "very long term."
This morning, ministers from both countries are due to come together in Paris for their first joint Cabinet meeting. Franco-German general secretaries, to be appointed in both countries, will be responsible for organizing twice-yearly joint meetings and for coordinating joint lawmaking. French Premier Pierre Raffarin has said he plans to employ a German citizen as a policy adviser.
Both countries also are expected to announce that they will nominate common candidates for posts on international bodies, including sport organizations, and could hold joint sports events such as soccer World Cups or the Olympics.
Since the Elysee Treaty was signed in Versailles 40 years ago, Franco-German cooperation has gone a considerable way to healing relations between the former enemies.
Trade between the two countries has risen 20 times in the past 40 years, Germany's Federal Office of Statistics said yesterday.
Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt threatened to dampen the anniversary celebrations by saying that the Franco-German axis was "as good as dead" and a "self-delusion."
"The Franco-German leadership of the EU no longer exists," he said, adding that the relationship was more advantageous to Germany, as it tried to re-establish itself as an international power, than France.
"The Germans need the French more than the French need the Germans," he said.


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