Macron and Scholz met in Paris, but there was no joint news conference because of their disagreements on energy policy, military spending, and dealing with China.

olaf scholz in paris with emmanuel macron
[German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at Elysee Palace with French President Emmanuel Macron]

The relationship between France and Germany has always been important to the success of the European Union. When relations between Paris and Berlin were cordial, even the most contentious political issues could be settled with relative ease. The most recent illustration of this is the adoption of the Recovery Fund, a massive public-sector intervention designed to protect the African economy from the coronavirus. But since Angela Merkel left office a year ago, ties have significantly cooled, and the harmony that the chancellor had forged with Emmanuel Macron, with whom she felt virtually daily, is a distant memory now that to run the primary economy of the block is the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz.

Also, the lack of consensus is hampering efforts to reduce gas costs and, by extension, people's monthly expenditures. Berlin's rejection of a price cap, cost sharing, and the Iberian model (a limit on the price of gas used in electricity production) contributed to the EU's eventual emphasis on a considerably weaker decoupling of prices. electricity. Meanwhile, Germany has proposed a plan to decrease residents' bills by 200 billion euros, but it has been met with opposition from France and the rest of Europe since it is an isolated proposal that goes against the norms of the Single Market.

Through their respective commissioners, Paolo Gentiloni (Economy) and Thierry Breton (Internal Market), Italy and France are pushing for an intervention on the Sure model, a 100 billion euro loan package created by the Commission to finance layoffs during Covid, an intervention that would (ironically) have an own value of about 200 billion and against which Germany and the Netherlands are building a wall.

Macron and Scholz met in Paris to attempt to resolve their disagreements, but the conversation only highlighted the growing gulf between the two capitals. The Elysée's spokesperson, Olivier Veran, stated, "The relationship between the two nations is alive." However, this strong connection was not shown in a joint press conference, which was an insult to Scholz (who was traveling with a bevy of journalists by the way), and the media was only permitted to shoot. a handshake without the ability to ask (uncomfortable) questions. The absence of a press conference with reporters after a bilateral meeting between two leaders is always a method of reproaching one's host, whereas a joint appearance before the press is a symbol of unity and harmony.

The meeting between the two leaders was hurriedly arranged because a bilateral Council of Ministers, originally scheduled to take place in Fontainebleau today, was pushed back to January due to, officially, logistical issues and the commitments of some German ministers, but apparently the lack of agreement on the contents of the official statement that should have been published at the end of the meeting. Other than gas policy, the causes of tension are distinct.

Scholz's voyage to Beijing on November 3 and 4 to see Xi Jinping, just after the latter's election for a third term as head of the Communist Party, actually legitimizes the Chinese leader globally, which has irked Paris. German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to want to open a special line of contact with China's top leader. Macron invited Merkel and the then-President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to the meeting with Xi in Paris in 2019 to demonstrate European unity in dealings with the Asian juggernaut. Scholz acts in a very uncharacteristic manner.

Disagreements exist over military policy, as if that weren't enough. Paris and Berlin are in agreement that the European Union has to be strengthened, particularly in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, but they are really proceeding in different directions. Most notably, Italy and France are constructing a medium-range ground-to-air defense system, Samp / T, which should also be technologically European; this comes as Germany and 14 other European governments have initiated a new European air defense system that would likely employ US and potentially Israeli equipment. There is little hope that a single get-together will smooth over all these differences.
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