At first glance, nothing seemed to be wrong, on a Wednesday afternoon in the courtyard of the Elysee. There, French President Emmanuel Macron greeted German Chancellor Olaf Schulz with a long handshake and smile over a working lunch. But contrary to what was announced by Schulze’s team, and contrary to what is usual in bilateral meetings of this kind, the Elysee refused to hold a joint press conference.
this Diplomatic stab Another sign of the disruption in relations between Paris and Berlin. Initially, a meeting of the most important French and German ministers was scheduled to take place in Paris on Wednesday. It was abruptly canceled last week, officially because a number of German ministers were on vacation, According to diplomats Because of some big disagreements between Schulze and Macron.
Within Europe, Germany is sailing too lonely on a course, according to criticism from France. Macron blames Schulz for the fact that Germany (like the Netherlands and Sweden, among others) opposes the EU-wide gas price cap. The German government says it fears the gas price cap will cause suppliers to move to other continents. Germany, which runs mainly on gas, would be relatively expensive with such a price ceiling, while France, a nuclear power country, would benefit from it.
The French president also believes that Schulz is not showing solidarity because the chancellor, without informing his European partners, has drawn up a €200 billion domestic aid package for citizens and businesses, in addition to previous aid packages of 95 billion. Last week, after the EU summit, Macron warned that Germany should not isolate itself too much.
Read also: Germany is becoming increasingly lonely
‘arrogant or arrogant’
The French president is not the only prime minister to have expressed such concerns. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told German broadcaster ZDF last week that she hopes “Germany understands that we are 27 member states and if everyone thinks only of himself, society as a whole will be the loser”. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who has been routinely critical of Germany, has previously described the neighboring country as “arrogant” and said of Schulz’s multibillion-dollar package that it serves only to “help its industry”. Then the Prime Minister of Italy Mario Draghi confirmed After the German package announced that “no member state can do it alone”, not even “those who appear least financially vulnerable”.
The criticism is stronger because Germany has become especially dependent on Russian gas, and now, with large pockets, is trying to limit the damage to itself as much as possible. The assistance will give German companies a competitive advantage.
There are more difficult files between France and Germany. Countries differ on the role nuclear power should play in the energy crisis. While nuclear power is an essential part of France’s energy mix and philosophy, the German government has decided to permanently shut down the last three German nuclear power plants by April 2023. Last week, France, in agreement with Portugal and Spain, shut down a gas pipeline from LNG plants in The Iberian Peninsula, which will pass through the Pyrenees and which Germany hopes to take advantage of.
There are also differences in the field of defense. Berlin decided in the spring to purchase 35 American-made F-35 fighter jets. Macron insists on European sovereignty and believes defense spending should remain on the continent. The plan of France, Germany and Spain to develop new combat aircraft themselves has reached a dead end.
But according to analysts, there is also a deeper fear in France, that Germany is beginning to look more east and away from the historically important Franco-German axis. Historian Jacques-Pierre Goujon wrote This week in Le Monde That’s because the European Union is expanding eastward, the “centre of Europe” is moving east and Germany is in the middle. France is still on the western side, post-Brexit also without the United Kingdom, and is afraid of losing its meaning as a result.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Germany, as well as Olaf Schultz, has been more interested in the interests of its neighbors on the eastern side. It was no accident that Schulze discussed his vision of Europe in a lecture in August at the University of Prague. But Schultz has not yet found his role in Europe. He sometimes seems to assume that he has inherited the authority of his predecessor, Angela Merkel, and can skip fine diplomatic points. „Schols like Elephant in the European China Store“, judge Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Other experts say Macron is simplifying differences to move Germany. This approach is not entirely hopeless: Despite his previous resistance, Schulz agreed last Thursday to continue work on a potential price ceiling for the gas market.
After the three-hour meeting in the presence of officials and a private talk, Schulz wrote on Twitter That conversation in Paris was “good and important”. According to German media, a European fighter plane was planned. Macron remains silent about the meeting for the time being – The president expressed his regret on Twitter on Wednesday Only the death of the painter Pierre Solage.
A version of this article also appeared in October 27, 2022
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