French President Emmanuel Macron and his German counterpart Olaf Scholz have been put on the spot by a key opposition figure in Berlin.
David McAllister, chair of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee and member of the German Christian Democratic Union, said the current lukewarm relationship between Paris and Berlin is putting on pause the European Union on several important issues.
He told the Guardian: “At the moment we’re seeing a remarkable lack of internal coordination between Paris and Berlin. And that is not good.”
While Mr Macron worked closely with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, maintaining alive the bond that has been at the heart of the EU bloc for decades, he doesn’t seem to have yet struck a close relationship with Mr Scholz.
Mr Scholz has been identified as the biggest culprit of the breakdown of the Franco-German motor by Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group.
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In a comment piece penned in April, Mr Rahman wrote in the FT: “Chancellor Olaf Scholz is mostly concerned with the unity of his coalition and Germany’s economy.
“If he lifts his head to contemplate the world outside Germany, it is usually to gaze across the Atlantic, not towards Paris or Brussels.”
The expert noted how the cooldown in the relations could be seen in a speech on Europe delivered by Mr Scholz in Prague last August, in which the Chancellor only made a passing reference to France.
Mr McAllister also referred in shock to the lack of mention of Paris made in that speech by Mr Scholz, as he said: “Can you imagine: he spoke for 45 minutes on the future of Europe – especially defence and security – and he doesn’t mention France? I mean, with whom will you organise your European defence and security if not with France?”
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A shared defence programme and a trade deal with Latin American countries are lacking progress without Berlin and Paris’ working partnership, the German politician believes.
Relations are indeed “strained” between France and Germany, according to Georgina Wright, director of the Europe programme at the Institut Montaigne think tank in Paris.
However, while Ms Wright acknowledged the “period of mistrust” between Paris and Berlin, she doesn’t think the relations between the two European countries have hit rock bottom.
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She told the Guardian: “We are in a period of mistrust … but it’s nowhere near what happened between the UK and France in 2017 and 2018 in terms of animosity.
“At the same time, you have to remember the Franco-German relationship is a lot more important than the France-UK relationship.”
And, despite the “fundamental disagreements” and “different approaches” of Mr Macron and Mr Scholz, France and Germany continue to speak multiple times a week across all ministries and levels, the expert said.
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