France and Germany are further moving away from each other
Relations between Germany and France are bursting at the seams. Recently, many contradictions have accumulated between countries. It will not be easy to overcome. Previously, the Berlin-Paris axis was considered the basis of the stability of the European Union. With the exit of the UK from the EU, the partnership between the two locomotives of the association has become even more significant. However, now states have more and more claims against each other. What would a division within the Franco-German family lead to?
Initially, Olaf Scholz, even before becoming chancellor, was considered the ideal candidate to strengthen the Berlin-Paris axis. He was personally acquainted with Emmanuel Macron. Scholz had long-standing ties with the French elites. In addition, he was considered the successor to the course of Angela Merkel. The French further respected him by the fact that, together with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Mer, he managed to lobby for the creation of an EU Economic Recovery Fund with an unprecedented budget.
Did not get along
As Politico wrote, German and French officials accuse each other of selfishness and hypocrisy. In Germany, they complained that they were unfairly reproached for the too-slow pace of arms deliveries to Kyiv, as well as for unilateral energy subsidies to German enterprises. The French are unhappy that the Germans do not consult with them on critical issues.
“Also, Macron is increasingly aware that Scholz and his team do not consider France a priority partner,” writes Bloomberg.
Scholz announced the resumption of the Economic Stabilization Fund, promising to pay €200 billion in energy subsidies to German companies and households. He did not warn Paris about this.
French officials have expressed concern that the German aid package will lead to an even greater economic split. In Paris, they advocated for Europe to agree on limiting gas prices. And not to issue additional assistance.
One of the main contradictions in relations between the countries was the defence policy of the European Union. The Future Combat Air System project is planned to develop sixth-generation jet fighters. These should replace the Spanish EF-16 Hornets, French Rafales and German Typhoons by 2040.
President Macron has long been the initiator of this project. He seeks to achieve as much independence from the United States as possible. However, Germany and other EU member states see this primarily as an attempt by French companies to strengthen their influence. Despite encouraging statements from French and German defence ministers, the countries are considering going it alone. If the project fails, French jet company Dassault Aviation SA will develop the fighter in-house, while Germany will likely rely on US imports.
Another stumbling block was the desire of the Germans to return to the MidCat pipeline project. It runs from the Iberian Peninsula to Northern Europe. Berlin, seeking to minimize dependence on Russian gas, is looking for alternative supply routes. However, they do not want to invest in the project in Paris, believing it will not pay off.
Problems in relations between Berlin and Paris are largely due to the ambitions of Macron. He wants to become the informal leader of the EU. For a long time, the German-French tandem was a “cautious hegemony” of Germany. Departure by Angela Merkel is changing it all.
Because many European companies are seriously considering moving to the United States, there are certain contradictions between Berlin and Paris. Previously, natural gas was supplied to France mainly from Germany. FRG has long been a European gas hub, primarily due to gas from the Russian Federation. The share of Russian fuel a year ago was about 34% in the total volume of gas supply. The explosive rise in prices and Germany’s refusal of Russian gas means, among other things, the blocking of the gas channel for France.
The position of the FRG concerning the gas partnership with Russia, like a boomerang, also hit the French energy industry. Meanwhile, in Germany, there is not enough electricity supply. Paris has already hinted that it will not be able to supply electricity to Berlin, although the country has many nuclear power plants that do not depend on gas supplies.
A return to the German-French tandem, which was during the reign of Angela Merkel, is hardly possible.