German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron signed a new pact between France and Germany on Tuesday, that they promise will pave the way for the two countries to form a "European army."
The two leaders inked the Franco-German agreement in the ancient western city of Aachen, Germany, vowing to build a "common military culture" between the two nations.
In a speech during the signing ceremony, Merkel declared that the new Aachen Treaty "contributes to the creation of a European army," but warned of rising nationalism and populism in Europe.
The new accord was signed on the 56-year anniversary of the 1963 Elysee Treaty, which set the tone for the two countries' close relationship when the end of World War II also ended centuries of conflict between France and Germany.
Both Merkel and Macron have long been pushing the idea of a joint European Army for the bloc that would be part of the broader NATO alliance.
According to the Daily Mail, Merkel in her speech also said that, as France and Germany seek closer political, economic and defense integration, they should also work on a "joint military industry."
And she warned against rising nationalism in Europe as she called for a revival of cross-border cooperation.
"Populism and nationalism are strengthening in all of our countries," Merkel told French, German and European officials gathered in Aachen's town hall.
Citing Britain's departure from the European Union and the growing protectionist tendencies around the world, Merkel noted that globalism is going through a rocky period.
"Seventy-four years, a single human lifetime, after the end of World War II, what seems self-evident is being called into question again," she said.
"That's why, first of all, there needs to be a new commitment toward our responsibility within the European Union, a responsibility held by Germany and France."
Her words were echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who noted the "growing anger" within European societies and pressure from without.
The Treaty of Aachen aims to boost cross-border cooperation along the countries' 290-mile frontier, but also improve coordination between the two nations when it comes to tackling international problems such as climate change and terrorism.
Germany and France are often described as the engine of the European Union - to the occasional annoyance of other members, who feel sidelined by the cozy relationship between Paris and Berlin.
The treaty pledges stronger economic and defense ties and restates the countries' commitment to the European Union.
But it has been heavily criticized, with many accusing the pair of signing away their countries' sovereignty.
The leader of France's National Rally, Marine Le Pen, accused Macron of "an act that borders on treason."
One of the leaders of German's far-right AfD party, Alexander Gauland, said Paris and Berlin were seeking to create a "super EU" within the European Union.
"We as populists insist that one first takes care of one's own country. But we don't want Macron to renovate his country with German money."
The French presidency defended the bid to build up the "bedrock" of the EU as being "in the service of reinforcing the European project."
Today's ceremony comes on the anniversary of a similar treaty in 1963, signed by Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer.
The new treaty aims to strengthen the so-called the "Franco-German motor" that has been seen as the driving force behind European integration.
Macron's critics on both the far left and far right slammed the latest accord as an erosion of French sovereignty.
A wave of false rumors has spread online that Macron was going to Germany to sign away parts of French territory to Merkel and that France will agree to share its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council with its neighbor.
Some other European leaders have also bristled at the idea of an all-dominating "Franco-German motor."
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