The Franco-German dialogue on the strengthening of cross-border cooperation in the context of COVID-19 aims to bring together 40 citizens from each side of the Franco-German border in online working sessions in order to make recommendations to the public authorities to strengthen Franco-German cooperation on the cross-border territory and to make the cooperation arrangements more resilient to crises.
In 2019, the Treaty of Aachen was signed to strengthen relations between Germany and France. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a different impact on the inhabitants of the regions surrounding the border between the two countries and has had a strong impact on the dynamics of Franco-German cooperation. In order to gain better understanding of this situation and make recommendations to public authorities, 40 citizens were recruited to take part in Franco-German discussion sessions. They discussed their experiences of the COVID-19 crisis, their experience of cross-border cooperation between France and Germany and their hopes for the future of this cooperation. The participants submitted recommendations to improve Franco-German cooperation in the cross-border region and make this cooperation more resilient to health crises.
This initiative is part of a more general desire to strengthen Franco-German links through participatory democracy and the involvement of citizens of both countries, either on a one-off basis or through long-term initiatives. It is also a bilingual Franco-German approach, with all the challenges and richness that this entails in terms of technical aspects, team coordination, communication with participants, moderation, etc. For example, each session includes a team of Franco-German interpreters to ensure that everyone understands each other.
- Strategic framing: development of the terms of reference of the approach and the content of the sessions in cooperation with all partners, to ensure that the approach meets the specific needs of the cross-border territory.
- Preparation and facilitation of the sessions: preparation and facilitation of the sessions in accordance with the established mandate and with the partners involved. The preparation of the sessions includes the search for speakers, chosen for their expertise and on the basis of the desires/needs expressed by citizens at the previous session. Alongside Mission Publiques, we also provide moderation for these (online) sessions and facilitate breakout groups with the support of our partners.
- Preparation of session summaries, in German and in French, recounting discussions between participants and speakers.
- Communication on the process: communication work, in close cooperation with Missions Publiques and with the Franco-German Citizen Fund (interviews with citizens and partners, dissemination on social networks, etc.).
The cross-border cooperation project involving citizens yielded recommendations that were presented to regional and national elected officials. These recommendations were added to the regions’ strategic roadmaps and were also transmitted to national Ministries. The project was also presented at the World Democracy Forum of the Council of Europe in order to strengthen the perception of the cross-border area as a laboratory for European integration. The full report including citizen recommendations is available online.
From December 2020 to December 2021 with our partners: Missions Publiques, Franco-German Citizen Fund, Grand Est region and the Land of Baden-Württemberg.
The Franco-German dialogue was the French winner of the 2021 European Citizen Prize, awarded by the European Parliament.