BERLIN – German troops are being stationed in neighbouring France for the first time since the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the announcement in a joint statement Wednesday. They say the nearly 20-year-old French-German joint military brigade “will in the future be based in both our nations.”
The two leaders stressed what they called the “historic symbolism of this new step in Franco-German friendship.”
Their statement, published in newspapers in both countries, comes ahead of this weekend’s Munich Security Conference.
The brigade, made up of 2,800 German and 2,300 French troops, was set up in 1989 with the aim of furthering rapprochement between two country that fought against each other in both world wars.
A spokeswoman for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party confirmed that some 600 German troops will be involved in the move, but had no further details.
Merkel’s spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm, meanwhile, told reporters that “talks are ongoing between the defence ministries regarding the details.”
The joint brigade is currently stationed at three bases in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which borders the French region of Alsace-Lorraine, a territory that has swapped hands between France and Germany several times.
The brigade is an army unit under joint French and German command with individual French, German, and some integrated units. It includes armoured artillery, light armoured cavalry and a group of German armoured engineers.
Since its inception, the brigade has served in missions in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.