Destabilizing speculation

In the middle of the cold between Paris and Berlin, Macron and Scholz go to lunch at the Élysée

The Franco-German council of ministers initially scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed, while France and Germany oppose each other in particular on energy and defense issues.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will try this Wednesday to revive the Franco-German tandem, weighed down by a series of disputes, from energy to defense, against a backdrop of war in Ukraine.

During a lunch at the Élysée, the two leaders aim to “strengthen Franco-German cooperationand respond to the common challenges ofunited and united mannersummed up the French presidency on Tuesday. An ambition that poorly masks the sometimes gaping differences between the first two European powers and which led to the postponement for several weeks of a Franco-German council of ministers, the first of Olaf Scholz, scheduled for the same day near Paris. The arrival of the Chancellor at 12:00 p.m. and lunch at 12:35 p.m. will not give rise to any declaration, neither before nor after, according to the program broadcast Tuesday evening by the Élysée.

A marriage of necessity»

On the strategy to adopt in the face of soaring energy, nuclear and European arms prices, nothing seems to be going well between Paris and Berlin. Something to worry about in Europe, where the Franco-German engine remains a major engine. “The Franco-German couple diverges, it is therefore paralyzedexclaims former French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. “We cannot afford, at this moment in history, not to have a united and strong Europe. It starts with a fruitful Franco-German dialogue“, he warned on Friday on France Inter radio.

Disputes – especially on several common industrial projects, from the combat aircraft to the tank of the future – have been exacerbated since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine. Germany, among the hardest hit due to its dependence on Russian gas, has undertakena change of model whose destabilizing character should not be underestimated“, analyzes Emmanuel Macron.

Chancellor Scholz announced an aid plan of 200 billion to individuals and businesses in the face of soaring prices, in particular of gas after the cuts in deliveries imposed by Russia. This plan, deployed without consultation with its European partners, has given rise to great misunderstandings and fears of distortion of competition in Europe.

After decades of underinvestment, Germany has also made a 180 degree turn in defense in order to make its army “the best equipped force in Europe“. There too without necessarily working to strengthen the European strategic autonomy advocated by Paris and even less to that of Franco-German military-industrial cooperation. Berlin is thus promoting a project for a European anti-missile shield, with an Israeli component in particular, competing with that of Paris and Rome.

“Coordinate efforts”

For many observers, this rupture is inherent in any relationship where European ambitions and national interests are intertwined, but not necessarily prohibitive. “The reality is that it is a marriage of necessity, underlines a French diplomatic source. It’s not a fundamental crisis, it’s a low point in the relationship“, She adds. “Macron Merkel, they exchanged text messages every day, and there, I don’t think they talk to each other every day“, she notes again.

On Europe, the two leaders have “many convergences“, even if the Chancellor said little about France in her speech in Prague on the European Union at the end of August, it is underlined in Paris. Olaf Scholz then pledged to support an enlargement of the European Union towards the East and an EU to “30 or 36 members», a much more proactive approach than that of France. But he also pleaded, like Paris, for the passage to the qualified majority on a certain number of European decisions, from foreign policy to taxation.

In Berlin, we prefer to relativize. “France is our closest ally. In recent days there has been a lot of speculation, but I think a lot of things have been made up from scratch“Said a spokesperson for the German government. In Brussels too, we want to believe in it too. “I have confidence in the determination of the French President and the German Chancellor” at “work together“, assures the President of the European Council Charles Michel.

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