France-Germany tensions ‘hamstring EU’s capacity to act’ – DW – 10/26/2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron will meet in Paris after signs of a deepening split between the two countries emerge.

The Franco-German ministerial meeting – scheduled for this week – has been postponed to January next year by a short notice.

The Elysee has been quick to point out the difficult times for some ministers and the lack of time to prepare for meetings. “This delay does not provide an indication of the current state of Franco-German relations,” a spokesman told the media last week, adding that it was indeed just a delay and not a cancellation. That no.

But her statement – and then German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s hasty visit to Paris on Wednesday – failed In convincing analysts.

The German-French alliance is often described as a “locomotive” of the EU, and analysts say the current conflict is undermining the EU’s ability to act.

Important cooperation

Stefan Seidendorf, Deputy Director General of the Board of Directors of the French Republic, said: “The two countries’ commitment to close cooperation.” The German-Franco Institute, or DFI, is based in Ludwigsburg.

The EU flag is flown outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
The French president has outlined plans for EU integration as Germany tends to slow down.Photo: Yves Herman / REUTERS

“But these meetings and Franco-German cooperation are very important for the functioning of the EU and have never been canceled since the first meeting in 1963,” he told DW.

Seidendorf explained that what works for the United States in foreign policy does not work in Europe. The United States assumes that it can act alone because it is large enough for other countries to see its actions as an example to follow.

“But no European country is large enough to guarantee political stability on its own, and we need a fundamental agreement between France and Germany, the two largest economies, that represent the two most different perspectives. Indicated.

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France and Germany go alone

Today, both Germany and France seem to want to establish their own independence.

Berlin recently voted through an emergency package of 200 billion euros ($ 197 billion) to help combat rising gas and electricity prices at home without informing France. That is generally polite, especially since such quantities are likely to damage the market.

In addition, at a recent NATO meeting, Germany signed agreements with 14 other NATO and Finnish countries on a new air defense system called the European Sky Shield Initiative, or ESSI. The initiative aims to establish a joint air defense program on the continent. But France is not included.

This is despite the fact that France is already developing a so-called Mamba air defense shield along with Italy.

NASAMS anti-aircraft missile system is being commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Defense.
Air defense systems are being tested in the Netherlands, one of the countries registered for ESSIPicture: Robin Van Lonkhuijsen / ANP / dpa / picture alliance

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year, military defense has gained new importance.

Meanwhile, at a summit of EU heads of state and government last week, French President Emmanuel Macron announced agreements with Spain and Portugal to build new hydrogen and gas pipelines between Barcelona and Marseille. The project buried the so-called Midcat pipeline, which would connect Spain with France via the Pyrenees. Berlin favors the pipeline, likely hoping that Germany will eventually benefit from Iberian gas as well.

The French president also had direct excavations of his allies. “It is not good for Germany or Europe when Germany is alone,” he said.

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No time to grieve

“Both sides are angry with each other,” Seidendorf commented.

“Germany seems to think that it can reach multilateral agreements with other small countries and escape from France. And France is still waiting for Germany to accept Macron’s promise for deeper European integration, which he has made in During his speech at the Sorbonne University in 2017 “. Add. At the time, the French president pleaded for a full European budget and stronger military and tax cooperation, among other things.

But Sophie Pornschlegel, a senior policy analyst at Brussels-based Think Tank, the center of European policy, did not find the expression of bilateral excitement particularly ridiculous. “We do not have time for this – there is a war in Europe and we are facing an energy crisis,” she told DW.

Brussels-based analyst Sophie Pornschlegel
Brussels-based analyst Sophie Pornschlegel says this is not the time for tearsPhoto: Frederike van der Straeten (Berlin 2021)

“If we are lucky and it is not too cold in the coming months, we will go through this winter. But we will need a long-term solution to deal with rising energy prices through, for example, the European Union Solidarity Fund.” She argued.

Otherwise, energy could become unaffordable and lead to more economic crisis and unemployment, Pornschlegel added.

“The cracks in Europe are now happening [Russian leader] “Vladimir Putin’s arm and the EU’s tendon injury in action,” she stressed.

Deeper discrepancies?

France and Germany have sections where they traditionally disagree, such as energy. France, for example, favors nuclear power, while Germany opposes it.

But as Jacques-Pierre Gougeon, a German expert at the Institute for International Relations and Strategy, points out that the current crisis seems to be deeper than previously disagreed.

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Gougeon told DW “Spitting is particularly serious” as some smaller EU member states, such as Poland and the Baltic states, are questioning French-German leadership.

French President (right) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (left)
Better friend? French President (right) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez have agreed on a new pipeline. Picture: Bertrand Guay / AP / picture alliance

Ronja Kempin, a senior expert at the German Institute for International Affairs and Security in Berlin, also thinks that the current argument reflects a deeper and more fundamental disagreement.

“Macron has long urged the EU to work with small working groups on specific issues and to oppose EU expansion before it is reformed,” she explained. “That the EU is a way to expand French power.” DW

“On the contrary, Germany sees the expansion of the European Union as a way to bring about change and bring peace to countries,” she added.

Looking at the bright side

DFI’s Seidendorf still sees the silver lining.

“German and French heads of state often have to go through a learning curve to understand that the EU cannot function without a Franco-German couple.”

Seidendorf points out that former German leader Ludwig Erhard, who ruled in the 1960s, and former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, who served as president between 2007 and 2012, also need to learn from this.

He acknowledged that it was “incredibly difficult” to reach a compromise with allies who disagreed with you. In some important parts. “But in the end, they all came.”

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