He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Vision of Europe: Franco-German Relations during the Great Depression, 1929-1932, and reported the following:
A Vision of Europe is the story of French and German efforts to put the sterile legacy of the First World War behind them by building a European Union organized around a Franco-German economic partnership.Learn more about A Vision of Europe at the Oxford University Press website.
Page 99 comes midway through a section that examines the multifaceted contribution of the Catholic Church and of Catholic political and cultural organizations to the cause of inter-war Franco-German reconciliation. It details a major conference held in Berlin in December 1929, which brought ‘together [French and German] forces that shared a similar domestic political agenda.’ These forces included ‘complementary economic interests’ and other ‘powerful elements [working towards] understanding and cooperation,’ which embraced wide-ranging academic collaboration and ‘the establishment of closer relations between the Catholic press and journalists of the two countries.’ The German and French press reported on two ‘dazzling official receptions hosted in turn by the French Ambassador [at Berlin] and the German Foreign and Justice Ministers,’ to the evident pleasure of the French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand. And as the German Ambassador at Paris observed: ‘the impression is growing [in France] that the meeting of German and French Catholics in Berlin has been useful and it has undoubtedly encouraged circles previously opposed to a German-French dialogue to reconsider.’
This Catholic dimension was one factor among many that appeared to be paving the way to a peaceful, integrated Europe. Indeed, in September 1931 the French and German governments formally agreed to create a Franco-German customs and economic union as the first step along this road, but a series of major setbacks quickly followed. The Great Depression undermined France’s commitment to free trade just as German politics were convulsed by the rise of the nationalist demagogue, Adolf Hitler. The unauthorized publication of leaked German foreign policy documents in France and Germany added to the furore, as Europe and the wider world slid towards renewed war.
It took the Second World War to teach the international community the hard way of the virtues of collaboration. Collegial diplomacy came slowly to prevail, if only after the challenges of the Cold War had been defused. But now, it seems, we are once again condemned to witness the populist prioritization of national self-interest over multilateralism and collective well-being.