French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will try to revive the Franco-German tandem on Wednesday, burdened by a series of disputes, from energy to defense, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
During lunch at the Élysée, the two leaders have a goal “strengthening Franco-German cooperation” and respond to common challenges “unified and united way”summed up the French presidency on Tuesday.
“United and strong Europe”
An ambition that poorly masks the sometimes stark differences between Europe’s top two powers and which has led to the postponement for several weeks of a Franco-German council of ministers, first by Olaf Scholz, scheduled for the same day near Paris.
The chancellor’s arrival at 12 noon and lunch at 12:35 will not prompt any statement, either before or after, according to a program broadcast by the Elysee on Tuesday night.
In terms of strategy adopted in the face of soaring energy prices, nuclear power and European armaments, nothing seems to be working well between Paris and Berlin. In Europe, where the Franco-German engine remains the main driver, there is something to worry about.
“The French-German couple is breaking up, it is therefore paralyzed”former French Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin is concerned.
A time in history
“At this moment in history, we cannot afford not to have a united and strong Europe. It begins with a fruitful Franco-German dialogue.he warned on France Inter radio on Friday.
The disputes — particularly over several joint industrial projects, from fighter jets to the tanks of the future — have intensified since the start of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
Germany, which is among the most affected by its dependence on Russian gas, has pledged “a paradigm shift whose destabilizing character should not be underestimated”, analyzed by Emmanuel Macron.
Chancellor Scholz announced a 200 billion plan to help individuals and businesses in the face of soaring prices, particularly of gas following supply cuts by Russia.
This plan, implemented without consultation with European partners, has caused a lot of misunderstanding and concerns about the distortion of economic competition in Europe.
“Marriage of Necessity”
After decades of underinvestment, Germany also did a 180-degree turn on defense to build its military “the best equipped force in Europe”.
Even there, without necessarily working on strengthening the European strategic autonomy promoted by Paris and even less on French-German military-industrial cooperation.
Berlin is thus promoting the project of a European anti-missile shield, especially with an Israeli component, which competes with the project of Paris and Rome.
For many observers, this breakdown is inherent in any relationship where European ambitions and national interests intersect, but it does not necessarily prevent it.
“The fact is, it’s a marriage of necessity,” a French diplomatic source points out. “It’s not a major crisis, it’s a weakness in the relationship”supplies.
“Macron Merkel, they exchanged text messages every day and I don’t think they talk every day,” picks up again.
They have two leaders in Europe “lots of convergences”, even though the chancellor said little about France in her speech in Prague about the European Union at the end of August, she points it out in Paris.
Olaf Scholz then pledged to support the eastward enlargement of the European Union and the EU to “ 30 or 36 members », a much more active approach than France. But, like Paris, he also advocated for a number of European decisions, from foreign policy to taxes, to be passed by a qualified majority.
In Berlin, we prefer to relativize. “France is our closest ally. There has been a lot of speculation in the last few days, but I think a lot of things were made up from the beginning », believes the spokesperson of the German government.
We also want to believe that in Brussels. “I believe in the determination of the French president and the German chancellor” to “work together”, assures the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.