The relationship between Belgium and Germany from 1944 to 1958
11/27/09

The Belgian-German treaty of 1956

General BolleThe second part of Christoph Brüll’s study, from 1949 to 1958, takes a more classical look at diplomatic history, where the views of the actual people involved feature less prominently. The ultimate major step in Belgian-German relations was certainly the Belgian-German treaty of 1956, two years after the failure of the EDC (European Defence Committee), one year after Germany had completely regained its sovereignty and the same year as the Suez operation. The United States had, purely and simply, imposed the end of the operation led by the French, the British and the Israelis… The face of the world had changed, blocs had formed, the former actors ceded their places to the United States, decolonisation was not far away, the Treaty of Rome (1957) was soon to be signed … “It was not by chance, therefore, that the treaty between Belgium and Germany was signed,” explains Christoph Brüll, “but it should be noted that, despite everything, the Belgians intervened before the French (the Elysee treaty of 1963) and the Dutch concluded treaties with the Germans. The 1956 treaty settled the border question by returning the territories which had been under military administration back to Germany. It also included several other elements, including culture and compensation for the victims of Nazism.” This revealed the particular significance given to relations between the two countries, as it was the first time that the borders, which were officially open, were freely defined, and anything that could have been a problem in the inter-war period (Vennbahn, border controls, etc.) had been settled. To summarise, not only the political context in general, but also the political will on both sides and the Cold War allowed this reconciliation and political success to take place. On the societal level, however, things were without a doubt more complex, these questions being difficult for the historian to access. “During this mutual learning process,” concluded Christoph Brüll, “there is evidence that people wanted to avoid the mistakes of the inter-war period and feelings of revenge. The resentment was there - it was unlikely to have been otherwise - but the political will, in particular, that of Paul-Henri Spaak, proved to be the best way of avoiding repeating the troubles of the past.”

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