On 18 February 1974, the Finance Ministers of the Nine meet in Brussels to discuss European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). In this photo, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (left) can be seen talking with Helmut Schmidt (centre) and Wilhelm Haferkamp (right).
In May 1974, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing go to the bedside of the sick Europe. The two Heads of State seem to embody 'New hope' in a Europe in the throes of monetary crisis.
In the light of the 1974 European monetary crisis, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing are depicted as two good Samaritans coming to the aid of a Europe in crisis.
'Inflation'. On 3 June 1974, in the midst of the economic and monetary difficulties facing Europe in the mid-1970s, French cartoonist Tim (the pseudonym used by Louis Mitelberg) illustrates the solidarity demonstrated by new Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the left), who is prioritising support for the struggling French economy (high inflation, trade deficit, etc.). The economically prosperous and powerful Federal Republic of Germany holds its protective umbrella above its French partner, represented by President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (on the right). By helping France, the FRG hopes to avoid a disintegration of Europe and a return to protectionism, which would be harmful for the country’s thriving trade. France is also counting on Germany’s help to launch a system of monetary cooperation designed to stabilise currencies and provide Europe with the means to stand up to US monetary hegemony.
‘European Community’. On 9 July 1974, Austrian cartoonist Ironimus paints an ironic picture of the European commitment of Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the left) and French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (on the right), whose bodies have taken the shape of the letters ‘EG’, the abbreviation for ‘European Community’ in German.
‘New brooms …’ On 10 July 1974, German cartoonist Peter Leger illustrates the joint efforts of Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to pull Europe out of the quagmire in which it finds itself.
‘Isn’t that the same place we got off!?’ On 4 September 1974, German cartoonist Horst Haitzinger illustrates the joint attempt by French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to revive the engine of European integration. In the sky, two angels, General de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the fathers of the 1963 Élysée Treaty, carefully observe the efforts of the new Franco-German tandem to move Europe forward.
‘The peasant wars aren’t over yet …’ On 30 September 1974, even though the Franco-German duo is working to serve Europe, German cartoonist Hanns Erich Köhler illustrates the deep divisions between French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (on the right) and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the left) over the common agricultural policy (CAP). Paris and Bonn particularly disagree over the question of setting prices for agricultural products. Although the two leaders initially shake hands to work together to ensure Europe’s bright future, the issues surrounding the CAP seem to plunge them back into the peasant wars that took place in the first quarter of the 16th century in southern and central Germany and part of Lorraine and Alsace. The French President, brandishing a scythe, confronts a Chancellor armed with a pitchfork, and their good relations seem to be long forgotten.
‘A teaspoonful a day’. In 1974, French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt attempt to persuade British Prime Minister Harold Wilson of the benefits of the European Economic Community (EEC).
‘The European nouveau riche. I hope the smoke’s not bothering you too much, my dear Giscard?’ On 11 December 1974, at the end of the meeting of Heads of State or Government of the EEC Member States in Paris, French cartoonist Jacques Laplaine (Lap) paints an ironic picture of the economic and industrial power of the Federal Republic of Germany. The smoke billowing from the factory chimney signals that the German economy is in fine shape. But during the same period, France’s economy is plagued by unemployment and inflation. From left to right: Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (with his head in the smoke).
‘European Summit’. On 11 December 1974, following the Paris Summit, German cartoonist Ernst Maria Lang depicts the efforts made by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, President of the French Republic, and German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to implement a system of regular meetings between the Heads of State or Government of the Nine. Sat on one of the ‘summits’, pipe in hand, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson observes with interest as France and Germany attempt to offer each other mutual support.
‘If there’s any news, I’ll call you … and I’ll reverse the charges.’ On 5 February 1975, as relations between French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (on the right) and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the left) grow closer, French cartoonist Jacques Faizant paints an ironic picture of the disastrous economic situation in France. President Giscard is shown dressed as a beggar who cannot even afford to pay for a phone call to his German partner. The contrast is striking between a prosperous West Germany that seems well placed to withstand the international crisis, and a France weakened by galloping inflation and a balance of payments deficit that is mired in deep recession.
‘The “Europe” passport — at least it’s something. And what’s it for? Oh — we were rather thinking of smoke and mirrors …’ On 8 January 1976, German cartoonist Hanns Erich Köhler criticises the disappointing results of European Political Cooperation and condemns the lack of action by the Franco-German duo. Meeting in Rome on 3 and 4 December 1975, the European Council agreed to introduce a uniform European passport that could be issued from 1978 onwards. The cartoonist portrays a disappointed European citizen who had hoped for a real revival of European integration and wonders about the point of the European passport plan. On a crumbling pedestal (the European Community) that looks like it might be about to collapse, we see a smiling French President Giscard and Federal Chancellor Schmidt, accompanied by British Prime Minister Wilson. The two crows and the jackal, traditionally bad omens, do not augur well and seem to mark the end of the EC. The European integration process is in crisis.
‘MITTELEUROPA. I wanted France to be governed from the centre, but I didn’t want Europe to be governed from the centre!’ On 12 February 1976, French cartoonist Jean Effel paints an ironic picture of the lesson in European geopolitics given by French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Paris wants to maintain a balance in Franco-German relations. Although Ostpolitik, Federal Chancellor Schmidt’s policy of normalising relations and opening up towards the East, aims to restore the economic powerhouse that is the Federal Republic of Germany to its rightful place on the international stage, this does not mean that Bonn should become the epicentre of the new ‘Mitteleuropa’.
‘A spoonful for Valéry … A spoonful for Helmut …’ On 14 February 1976, following the Franco-German summit in Nice, French cartoonist Alain Tredez illustrates the close cooperation between President Giscard (on the left) and Federal Chancellor Schmidt (on the right) to enable Europe to consolidate its political role on the international stage. The two leaders are depicted as parents feeding a child in a high chair, overseeing the growth and maturation of the young ‘Europe’ to compensate for a lack of political ability.
During the Copenhagen European Council of 7 and 8 April 1978, German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, and French President, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, submit plans for the European monetary system to their partners.
‘At his dinner with Schmidt … Giscard finds himself struggling with the monetary snake.’ On 28 June 1978, Spanish-born cartoonist Vazquez de Sola paints an ironic picture of the plan by French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to create a new European monetary system open to all the Community Member States. After the failure of the European monetary snake, Europe’s leaders are seeking a new approach to guarantee the stability of their currencies.
‘Aachen: Good old Charlemark! Full speed ahead for the Europe of Charlemagne’s gang. “Giddy-up, Helmut, you’re the Guide. That must be the year 2000. At the moment they seem to be going it alone.”’ On 20 September 1978, illustrating the meeting between French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt on 14 and 15 September 1978 in Aachen, French cartoonist Roland Moisan paints an ironic picture of the decision by the two leaders to further Franco-German cooperation and work together for monetary stability in Europe. But the absurd Franco-German venture for Europe doesn’t seem to be convincing France’s politicians. While French Prime Minister Raymond Barre is holding the reins with other ministers, Jacques Chirac, leader of the Rally for the Republic party, seems to want to pull the horse back. Leading the party, the French cockerel and the German eagle set the pace, followed by the horse ridden by the two European emperors. The French President, sitting on Chancellor Schmidt’s shoulders, holds a sceptre topped with an ‘E’ for Europe, while on the road, the globe with a cross depicts the sanctity of imperial power as guardian and defender of the Church.
‘European Monetary System. Don’t make a fuss! If you can swallow Christmas pudding, you can swallow this!’ On 5 December 1978, French cartoonist Jacques Faizant illustrates how President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (centre) and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the left) are laying the foundations of a new European Monetary System. The two leaders also need to secure the support of British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader James Callaghan (on the right), since the EMS envisaged by France and Germany has not received unanimous support within the Labour Party.
‘Maternity ward. It’s a sort of snake.’ On 6 December 1978, French cartoonist Alain Tredez illustrates how the joint action of French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the right) has resulted in the birth of a new European Monetary System (EMS). The EMS is often referred to as the ‘improved snake’, the main change being the creation of the ECU (European Currency Unit). The term ‘snake’ refers to the European monetary snake, created six years earlier by the Basel Agreement of 10 April 1972. This economic mechanism was designed to limit fluctuations in exchange rates between the Member States of the European Economic Community. In the absence of a real monetary union, the snake served for some time as a ‘prop’ for the European currencies, establishing an area of relative stability in a context of international monetary turbulence. But the serious economic problems of 1977 and 1978 would prove too much for the snake, obliging Europe’s leaders to introduce a new European monetary system.
On 8 December 1978, German cartoonist Peter Leger illustrates the establishment of the European Monetary System (EMS) and the choice of Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom not to take part. The Franco-German duo Giscard and Schmidt are the central pillars holding up the structure.
‘ECU. The famous double act. Schmidt: Careful, your hair’s tickling me!’ On 10 January 1979, cartoonist Pino Zac illustrates the efforts made by French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to establish a European Monetary System (EMS) and the European Currency Unit (ECU), a single, artificial currency whose value represents an average of the value of the European currencies. The purpose was to create an area of monetary stability in Europe, to avoid constant devaluations and to stimulate trade, growth and economic convergence.
On 21 March 1980, Greek cartoonist Basilis Mitropoulos (known as ‘Bas’) illustrates the mediation efforts by the Franco-German duo Giscard and Schmidt to ease the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The cartoonist particularly emphasises the complementarity of the actions of France and Germany on the international stage. On one side, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is engaging in dialogue with Leonid Brezhnev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, while Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is playing the role of mediator with US President Jimmy Carter. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, tensions between Moscow and Washington have been reignited and there is a new Cold War climate between the two superpowers.
‘West. East. Europe. Wanted: a stable position’. On 7 July 1980, as French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing makes an official visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, French cartoonist Alain Tredez illustrates the question of the future of European integration and the role played by Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and the French President to guarantee the stability of a Europe that is facing many economic and political challenges.
‘FRG. It’s the sacred union.’ On 7 July 1980, as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing makes an official visit to the FRG, French cartoonist Piem paints an ironic picture of the good relations between the French President and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. As he alights from the plane, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing kisses German soil as if he were the Supreme Pontiff, while the little ‘Gretchen’ with her tidy plaits, the representation of Germany in French cartoons, welcomes this seemingly mystical rapprochement between the two leaders.
‘Paris–Bonn tandem. And who’s going to sit at the front?’ On 8 July 1980, as French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing makes a state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), German cartoonist Klaus Pielert illustrates the good relations between the French President and Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (on the left) and paints an ironic picture of the power relationship within the Franco-German tandem.
On 24 May 1981, three days after François Mitterrand takes office, the new French President receives Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to the Élysée Palace. During this first meeting, the two leaders discuss the European Monetary System and the Euromissiles crisis.
On 4 October 1981, the French government devalues the franc by 3 %, while the Federal Republic of Germany revalues its national currency by 5.5 %. On 16 October 1981, French cartoonist Louis Mitelberg, also known as Tim, criticises this depreciation of the French franc, which he believes will ultimately benefit Germany. Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, while kissing the hand of the ‘Sower’, is shown grabbing part of the franc’s value. The Sower, an allegorical figure depicted on the one franc coin since 1897, embodies the notion of a hardworking, industrious France.