We had been on autopilot for too long, but by sweeping dust under the rug, we hadn’t realized that this routine no longer suited what we were going through. » It is like being in a marriage counselor and, for three months, it is true that the French and German leaders share this point of view of one of the actors in the relationship between Paris and Berlin. Is it the crisis of the sixties, the era of the cooperation treaty signed on January 22, 1963 at the Élysée between Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer? Are Emmanuel and Olaf the ones who haven’t found their marks yet? Is it the new coalition in Berlin that complicates, slows and paralyzes everything? It’s obviously a bit of all of these. This Sunday morning at the Sorbonne and in the afternoon at the Élysée, the protagonists of the Franco-German saga will have to live up to the pact with which Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz undertake in the tribune that they both sign and that we publish together. with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
When, on October 20, the Élysée and the German chancellery decided together to cancel the Franco-German Council of Ministers that was to be held on October 26 at Fontainebleau, many were relieved. “The Council of 26 was presented frankly as laborious, with few results and announcements, and this would only have widened the gap that separated us,” confess our source. The gap? It is true that beyond the complicated issues that have poisoned the relationship since the beginning of the war in Ukraine – energy, the industrial response to American protectionism, the European defense industry…–, a file in particular has been experienced as a stab in the return to Paris.
In his speech in Prague on August 29, Chancellor Scholz, whom many Europeans criticized for his lack of vision and leadership, announced that his country would act on European security by proposing a new security tool called European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI). ). In fact, this is a vast anti-missile system that Germany is working on, which ended up bringing 14 NATO countries to its side and would benefit from Israel’s expertise in the field. Bloodshed in Paris, which was not on the circuit and in which Berlin did not even offer to participate. “The German decision on the Sky Shield project has highlighted an additional reason to have a real strategic discussion with them, they say to the Elysium. We have not had the same analysis on the maturity of this project. »
For Germany to make such a decision, alone, on an issue that affects our deterrence, that is what hurt in the highest places.
The language is diplomatic but the episode was very poorly experienced. “Sky Shield has been a real irritant and the rest, a source at the center of the bilateral relationship tells us. For Germany to make such a decision, alone, on an issue that affects our deterrence within NATO and Europe, that is what hurt people in high places. » Even in Berlin, the case has raised its teeth. “Sky Shield is the perfect example of what not to do when looking for leadership”admits a German military adviser even though he is convinced “The Franco-German couple cannot defend Europe alone”. On October 13, Germany, however, gathered its 14 partners at the headquarters of the Atlantic Alliance for a signing ceremony of the Sky Shield project. This week, on both sides of the Rhine, it was hinted that nothing was final, even with the chancellor’s idea that it was possible. “integrate France” in the collective system.
Put everything back together
On October 26, instead of the Franco-German summit that was supposed to take place in France, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz met at the Elysée. They agreed that the adjournment of the Council should allow everything to get back on track. On the occasion of this lunch, which also brought together his main advisers in diplomatic and European affairs, certain issues were identified as priorities. It corresponds to the working groups that will be appointed to burst the abscesses and propose compromises on each of the hot topics.
On the defense industry, the pressure ends up paying off. At the beginning of December, an agreement was reached to start a new phase in the design of the Scaf, the future European combat aircraft. In terms of energy, another working group is specifically in charge of the hydrogen dossier. The Germans do not want to hear about a green hydrogen that would be produced with nuclear energy but only with renewable energy. Here, too, things are slowly being unlocked. On Sunday in the courtyard of the Élysée, the largest electrolyser in Europe will be exhibited: it is Franco-German.
Now we have a Franco-German engine running at full speed
It must be said that within the German coalition the Greens feel politically closer to the European philosophy of Emmanuel Macron. Although the nuclear question remains very ideological, France has, with the head of diplomacy Annalena Baerbock, the ability to listen. On November 7, she is interviewed here in Berlin, with the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Laurence Boone, by a delegation of Franco-German parliamentarians. Pressured by her schedule, she canceled her upcoming meetings to continue answering questions from elected officials. “We need trust, but also frank discussions between friends, she told them. Sometimes you can curse your partner for not closing the tube of toothpaste. But the value of the relationship is such that we have overcome these small differences because the deep bond remains the most important. » And admit: “The October 26th Council was adjourned because we were discussing essential issues of identity that we had not discussed between us until now. »
Since October 26, this informal conversation about difficult topics has been relaunched. “The truth is that we now have a Franco-German engine running at full speed”the French ambassador in Berlin, François Delattre, confides to us. “We argue, we even fight, but we are no longer like a pretend couple”, adds a French source familiar with these discussions. Was the discussion made easy? No. It’s still complicated, but there’s more willingness to make things easier. “When you ask a question in Berlin, you get three different answers and that doesn’t help”, deciphers a French source involved in the bilateral relationship. Allusion to the three coalition partners, social democrats, liberals and environmentalists. “Sometimes they ask us to arbitrate between them for them”adds our interlocutor. “The unifying factor in the Franco-German relationship came rather from the right, from the CDU, comments Charles Sitzenstuhl, former adviser to the German-speaking Bruno Le Maire, who therefore frequented Scholz when he was in Finance. On the SPD side, there is nothing, we lack interlocutors. »
The relationship of the “couple” remains at the top. Emmanuel and Olaf have made efforts but they haven’t known each other for so long. “Between each president and each chancellor, it hasn’t been mad love from day one”, advocates a French source. A lucidity that seems to elude the very idea of a couple. Too romantic, say the Germans. Not functional enough, recognize the French. “We have common interests and we must move forward pragmatically”they say at the Élysée, as if to also age this somewhat tacky adage that “France dislikes Germany but respects it, while Germany likes France but does not respect it.”
Source : Le JDD