Wooden desk from Aaachen

A Desk for Europe

It was an historic moment when Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, in the presence of Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet, signed the Aachen Treaty on this very desk on January 22nd, 2019. With it, they renewed the Élysée Treaty of 1963, which was the seal on Franco-German cooperation – an important driver of European unity.

North Rhine-Westphalia is a core European region. However, when the state was founded, borders were still closed and neighbouring countries’ deep-seated distrust following the Second World War still needed to be overcome. Past experiences had taught them to fear the Ruhr area in particular as Germany’s economic powerhouse and armoury. The Allies’ idea of embedding the region and its coal and steel industries into Europe became an impetus for the European unification process. North Rhine-Westphalia promoted this development by deliberately seeking ties with the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Partnerships emerged such as the so-called Zweckverband Eurode, a union of the Dutch town of Kerkrade and the German town of Herzogenrath. They even have a joint town sign, which you can see here next to the desk. Such partnerships are no longer unusual: foes have become friends.