Home » Paris-Berlin Relations Slump is Holding Up Key EU Decisions, Says German MEP
Europe European Union Featured Germany Global News News World News

Paris-Berlin Relations Slump is Holding Up Key EU Decisions, Says German MEP

Exclusive: Defence and trade affected by poor post-Merkel rapport, says chair of foreign affairs committee

Poor relations between France and Germany are slowing down key decisions in the EU including deals on defence in Ukraine and trade, an influential German MEP has claimed.

David McAllister, chair of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a key figure in the opposition Christian Democrats party, says he is concerned that the lack of contact between the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is causing delays on key decisions on battle tanks and fighter jets, and a future trade deal with Latin America.

“At the moment we’re seeing a remarkable lack of internal coordination between Paris and Berlin. And that is not good,” said McAllister.

He said the Franco-German relationship, long considered the driving force of the EU, was not “everything in Europe” but that without cooperation between the two countries “things don’t work”.

“In the end, Paris and Berlin need to agree to smooth things … and this is where I criticise the German government. I don’t think we have seen such little cooperation between Paris and Berlin as we are witnessing at the moment,” he added.

The chancellor’s predecessor, Angela Merkel, forged a close relationship over the course of 16 years with four French presidents, including Macron, earning her recognition as the EU’s de factor leader. Experts agree that the bloc is now missing that strong working relationship.

One of the most “prominent examples”, said McAllister, was the fight to get decisions made on the next-generation European battle tank, an integral part of the main combat system in Ukraine or any other future war zone.

Last month Paris and Berlin promised to make progress by the end of the year after a meeting between the French armed forces minister, Sébastien Lecornu, and his German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, but some think more political momentum is needed to speed up decisions.

McAllister’s centre-right party, which was led by Merkel, has spent the past two years in opposition to the coalition led by Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats, the Greens and the neoliberal Free Democrats.

“Anyone who has been following German-French relations for the past decades will agree there are always hiccups, and the most prominent example is that once again we are not moving foward on the development of the European battle tank,” said McAllister in an interview conducted before the defence ministers met.

But he said this was just one example of the weakness in the relationship.

“We do not see any kind of progress on the next, the future aircraft,” he said. Nor is there progress on a trade deal with the Mercosur bloc of Latin American countries, he said.

McAllister cites an August speech in Prague given by the German leader as a reflection of the lack of bonding at the heart of Europe.

“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? France is the leading military force in Europe and the British left us,” said McAllister.

The view is shared in France. Georgina Wright, director of the Europe programme at the Institut Montaigne thinktank in Paris, said: “My view is, yes, relations are strained. Yes, there are key issues that they need to overcome, based on actual policy disagreement and approach. But we shouldn’t exaggerate it too much.

“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,” she said.

“I think in Paris there is a view that Germany just spends too much time talking to itself. So you’ve got a coalition that’s formed … the three parties that are very different, and they’re just spending so much time agreeing a new policy [at home] that by the time it gets to Brussels, they haven’t had time to discuss it with anywhere else. And actually, that’s something I’ve heard not just from France, but from other member states as well,” added Wright.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of that the fact that while they have fundamental disagreements, and different approaches, these two governments speak not only several times a week but across all ministries and all levels,” Wright added.

This week, fault lines in the relationship between Berlin and Rome were also exposed, with Giorgia Meloni writing to protest against Germany’s plans to finance two migrant NGOs operating in Italy.

It was likely to have contributed to Italy’s decision to withhold agreement from a new text on reforms to EU migration laws at a summit of interior ministers in Brussels last week.

Source: The Guardian