Delayed Franco-German government consultations seen as crack in relation caused by energy crisis
Reuters / Die Welt / Clean Energy Wire / Süddeutsche Zeitung / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The postponement of Franco-German government consultations has been labelled as a “diplomatic earthquake” in German media that exposes stark contrasts in the two countries’ strategic approaches to energy and defence policy. News agency Reuters reported that the consultations, first such bilateral meeting since chancellor Olaf Scholz took office last year, were rescheduled from October to the beginning of next year. Differing views on energy policy, the support of Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and the absence of coordination in financial crisis response measures against high energy prices have led to almost “toxic” disputes between the governments in Berlin and Paris, Reuters reported.
Scholz's office on Friday announced that the chancellor will travel to Paris for a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron on 26 October in order to discuss "current bilateral and European policy affairs."
“Especially the energy supply question is causing a split,” newspaper Die Welt reported, arguing that the decision by France to postpone the traditional bilateral summit, where ministers of the two countries meet for a full day of talks, comes as a response to months of German policymaking considered egoistic in France. France's president had warned Germany that it risks “isolating” itself at the ongoing EU summit due to its planned 200-billion-euro defence shield spending and reservations regarding a cap on gas prices, which according to Macron had not been debated sufficiently with its EU partners beforehand.
At a time when the European energy crisis would warrant close and steady cooperation between the EU’s two largest member states, this conflict sends a “disturbing” message regarding the bloc’s internal functioning, Josef Kelnberger wrote in an op-ed for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The diplomatic “holiday” the two leading EU states afford themselves in times of war in Europe gives the impression of “amateurs” trying their hand at governing, he argued. “The importance of the German-French leadership role for the European project’s well-being has been known since the foundation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951,” Kelnberger wrote.
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, French finance and economy minister Bruno Le Maire sought to tone down the debate about cooling relations between the two countries. “Nobody can disrupt the German-French friendship,” Le Maire said, arguing that scheduling problems and some unresolved questions had led to the postponement. “There is no alternative to this partnership, as we together account for nearly 40 percent of Europe’s GDP and are tied together by deep historic relations. Nobody should have a doubt about that,” the French minister said. He added that a “fruitful confrontation” would better describe the current state of affairs between the two countries’ governments. “We need to find common answers.”