Berlin/Paris — Relations between Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, who lead the EU’s two economic powerhouses, are so frosty right now that they can’t even be seen together in front of the press.
The French president and German Chancellor held Tete a Tete in Paris on Wednesday, but did not hold a joint press conference in front of the cameras.Berlin previously announced that such a press appearance would take place. was doing. The Elysée Palace then ruled it out.
After the working lunch ended, officials from both sides, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed the talks were successful.
“It was very constructive and very strategic,” said one of Macron’s advisers. “We all had our noses up at the energy grindstone, but today we were able to spark a conversation and talk about what we want to do in five, 10 years,” German officials said. The conference was a “complete success”.
But the canceled press conference told its own story as a mockery of Scholz. He traveled to Paris with a full press corps and from there to Athens as another state guest. Denying press conferences to visiting leaders is a commonly applied political tactic to convey denunciations, as Scholz recently did when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Berlin. is.
“Perhaps there has been a lack of contact and exchanges between Scholz’s and Macron’s respective new government teams so far,” said Sandra Wieser of Germany’s liberal Liberal Democrats. “So we are also certainly at the beginning of a new interpersonal political relationship, which requires building trust first.”
The battle over media programming is just the latest episode of the deepening conflict between the two EU powers.
In recent weeks, Scholz and Macron have clashed over how to tackle the energy crisis, how to overcome the inability of Europe’s defenses, and the best approach to deal with China.
A meeting of French and German ministers scheduled in Fontainebleau, France, last week was postponed to January amid major disagreements over the text of a joint declaration and conflicting holiday plans for some German ministers. When these tensions became public. The disagreements between the two governments were also widespread at his EU summit in Brussels last week.
War in Ukraine, inflation and an energy crisis have strained European alliances at a time of greatest need. What had always been an important alliance between Paris and Berlin seemed like a cacophony at best.
French officials complain that Berlin does not treat them well enough as close partners. and confirms that their Berlin counterparts are aware of their frustrations.
“Meetings with French parliamentarians have made it clear that the people of Paris want closer ties with Germany,” the Franco-German parliament.
“So far, this cooperation has always worked well in times of crisis. Think, for example, of the recovery fund for the coronavirus crisis. , we need to coordinate closely,” Kopf said.
A similar conclusion is drawn by Weeser of the FDP, another coalition partner of the Berlin government. “Paris is frustrated by Germany’s dogmatic brake on petrol prices and lack of support for a joint European defense technology project,” she said. At the same time, she accused the French government of not stepping into a new pipeline connection between the Iberian Peninsula and Northern Europe until recently.
Most recently, the French government was irritated by the news that Scholz was scheduled to visit Beijing next week to meet with Xi Jinping. I am planning.
The idea at the Elysee is that it would have been better if Macron and Scholz visited China together. According to one French official, a visit immediately after parliament would “justify” Mr. Xi’s third term and be “too politically costly.”
Germany and France’s uncoordinated approach to China contrasts with Xi’s last visit to Europe in 2019. President Macron invited former Chancellor Angela Merkel and his former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Paris to show European unity.
Macron has refrained from directly criticizing the controversial Hamburg port deal with Chinese firm Cosco, which Scholz is pushing ahead of his visit to Beijing. But the French president last week questioned the prudence of allowing China to invest in “essential infrastructure”, saying that “because I thought Europe was an open supermarket”, Europe had in the past been a Chinese investor. He warned that he was “naive” to the purchase.
Jean-Louis Thierryot, deputy chairman of the defense committee of the French National Assembly, said Germany is increasingly focusing on defending Eastern Europe at the expense of joint German-French projects. For example, Berlin has signed agreements with her 13 NATO member states. Many of them were on the flanks of Northern and Eastern Europe and jointly acquired air and missile defense shields, which was a great nuisance for France.
“The situation is unprecedented,” Thielliot said. “Now tensions are escalating rapidly. [Franco-German] Tiger Helicopter Dropped Joint Naval Patrol … And Air Defense Shield Signature Is A Fatal Strike [to the defense relationship],” He said.
Germany’s massive investment through a €100 billion arms build-up fund and Scholz’s commitment to NATO’s goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense could push the annual defense budget to over €80 billion. High means Berlin is on track. It surpasses France’s €44 billion defense budget.
Last week’s disruption of the joint Franco-German ministerial meeting was not the first clash between Berlin and Paris over high-level meetings.
Back in August, the question was whether Schultz and Macron would meet in Ludwigsburg on September 9 to mark the 60th anniversary of former French President Charles de Gaulle’s famous speech. Despite the highly symbolic nature of the ceremony, the summit never took place — officials questioned why it happened, from conflicting appointments to disagreements over who should bear the costs. He presented conflicting explanations for
Late last month, Paris felt snubbed by Berlin when Scholz failed to find time to speak to French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. Video conferences have also been canceled, he said. This was allegedly because the Germans told the Borne office that Scholz was not feeling well.
Paris was even more surprised and irritated when Scholz showed up the same day via video at a press conference. A German spokeswoman declined to comment.
Yannick Berry, a lawmaker in Germany’s centre-right opposition who focuses on Franco-German relations, said Mr Scholz must start rebuilding his relationship with Mr Macron. “It is important that France receives a clear signal that Germany has a great interest in close and credible exchanges.” Berry said. “Trust is broken.”