Recently, relations between Germany and France have been quite crunchy. Scholz and Macron are now making the anniversary of the Elysée contract a big show of reconciliation. Concrete new projects hardly jump out.
After considerable tensions in recent months, on the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, Germany and France reiterated the importance of their friendship for the future of Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron said at a ceremony at Paris’ Sorbonne University on Sunday that Germany and France were like “two souls in one breast” for him. “To speak for a French person about Germany means to speak about a part of oneself,” he told more than 30 ministers from both governments and around 200 members of parliament.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) thanked the “French brothers and sisters” in French for their friendship. He regarded the differences of opinion between the two countries as normal in such close cooperation. “The Franco-German engine is a compromise machine – well oiled, but sometimes loud and marked by hard work,” said Scholz. “He doesn’t get his drive from sweet cuddles and empty symbolism. But because of our firm will to always convert controversies and differences of interest into aligned action.”
The ceremony was linked to a joint cabinet meeting, which, however, brought only a few concrete results. Among other things, the two governments agreed to extend a hydrogen pipeline from France to Spain to Germany. They promise Ukraine “unwavering support” without going into specific weapon systems such as battle tanks.
60 years ago, the Élysée Treaty was signed in Paris to reconcile the two former hereditary enemies and opponents of the war. To this day, it is considered the basis for Franco-German cooperation. For the anniversary ceremony and the subsequent deliberations of both governments, Scholz was accompanied to Paris by almost the entire cabinet. Only Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) was absent due to illness. More than 100 members of the Bundestag traveled in a second plane, led by Parliament President Bärbel Bas (SPD).
In the same room where the ceremony took place, Macron drafted his vision of a sovereign Europe a good five years ago, which caused a stir. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) did not respond to this request until the end of her term in office. Scholz reacted last summer with a keynote address on European policy in Prague, in which he did not go into detail about the importance of Franco-German friendship for Europe. Neither was well received in France.
In Paris, Scholz expressly thanked him for Macron’s Sorbonne speech. “Today we are working side by side to strengthen Europe’s sovereignty,” he stressed. The forces would have to be bundled precisely where the nation states would have lost assertiveness on their own: “In safeguarding our values in the world, in protecting our democracy against authoritarian forces. But also in the competition for modern technologies, in securing raw materials, in energy supply or in space travel,” said Scholz.
Macron warmly greeted the Chancellor with a hug in front of the Sorbonne. Germany and France are determined to make their friendship “one of the trees of life of European sovereignty,” he said in his speech. “You can rest assured that the two of us will continue to advance this once impossible couple that is simply the result of will, courage and strength.”
What is needed is an ambitious European industrial strategy that protects production in Europe, as well as a “Made in Europe 2030” strategy that makes Europe a pioneer in future technologies and artificial intelligence. Joint pioneering work is required for a European Union capable of establishing itself as an independent geopolitical power, stressed Macron.
Since Chancellor Scholz took office a good year ago, there have been repeated upsets in Franco-German relations. Last fall, France was displeased with German resistance to a European gas price cap and the federal government’s 200 billion program to cushion high energy costs. At the time, Macron accused Germany of isolating itself in Europe. The consultations between the two governments, which were actually planned for October, had to be postponed because agreement on all points could not yet be reached.
Most recently, the vote on arms deliveries to Ukraine did not go well. In early January, Macron pushed ahead with the decision on reconnaissance and armored personnel carriers and announced it a day before Scholz and US President Joe Biden.
The final declaration of the joint cabinet meeting is about broad cooperation from defense to transport to climate protection.
Climate: Both countries want to promote the climate-friendly restructuring of their economy and the expansion of renewable energies – but “while respecting the principle of technology neutrality”. In contrast to Germany, France is relying heavily on nuclear power when moving away from fossil fuels. Both sides recognize this different orientation.
Economy: The competitiveness of the EU economy is to be strengthened with an ambitious strategy and through simplified and accelerated state aid procedures. However, the statement does not say that this is also a reaction to the US anti-inflation law with investments worth billions in climate protection and a feared disadvantage for European companies.
Traffic: Cross-border traffic connections should be promoted. The expansion of the high-speed train connection between Paris and Berlin will be supported – the railways of both countries initially want to have a fast train commute daily – as well as the night train between the capitals that has already been announced for 2024.