French-German friendship ‘still alive’ as Macron meets Scholz amid tensions
Two leaders under pressure to repair relations after rifts over defence, energy and China. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, hosted the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, for lunch on Wednesday as they sought to iron out significant differences on energy and defence that have weakened their relationship at a time of war in Ukraine.
Both leaders, whose countries are seen as the joint driving force of the European Union, made an effort to smile as Scholz emerged from his black Mercedes at the Élysée Palace to shake hands, but the German chancellor appeared to sidestep Macron’s attempts to put an arm around him.
France sees commitments to cooperate on defence procurement floundering, given Germany’s plans for a shared missile shield with other Nato nations using American equipment. Longer-term projects to jointly develop new fighter jets and tanks face reluctance from big arms companies.
The two countries have traditionally been brokers of compromise among the 27 members of the EU. But the German newspaper Die Welt said: “The Ukraine war has changed the disagreement between Germany and France at its core and thrown up the fundamental question of how far the two sides are still strategically compatible.
Marie Krpata, a researcher on France and Germany at the French Institute of International Relations, said Macron’s credibility was at stake in repairing the Paris-Berlin relationship, particularly after the expectations created by Macron and Merkel’s 2020 agreement on a vast EU rescue fund to help European economies hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“France sees itself as the political motor of the EU, where Germany is the economic motor,” she said. “Today Germany is being looked towards on energy, the economy and defence, so it is seeing its role grow.”
With Macron weakened on the domestic front after his centrist grouping lost its absolute majority in parliament in June elections, Krpata said:
“Emmanuel Macron’s standing depends on the EU at the moment. He is weakened on internal politics so is trying to find his identity and profile through European action.”
The German opposition leader Friedrich Merz, of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, accused Scholz of isolating Germany within Europe.
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