Macron snubs Scholz in Paris – POLITICO

BERLIN/PARIS – Relations between Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, the leaders of the EU’s two economic powers, are now so cold that they can’t bear to be seen together in front of the press.

The French president and German chancellor spoke privately in Paris on Wednesday, but there was no joint press conference in front of cameras, the dryest of diplomatic courtesies that usually follow bilateral meetings. Earlier, Berlin announced that such a press conference would be held. The Elysée Palace later canceled this.

After the working lunch, officials from both sides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the meeting was a success.

“It was very constructive, very strategic,” said one of Macron’s advisers. “We’re all focused on energy, and today we’re able to raise the conversation and what we want to do five, ten years from now.” A German official said the meeting was “completely successful”.

But the canceled press conference told its own story for Scholz. He traveled to Paris with a full press corps and from there continued his regular state visit to Athens. Denying a visiting leader a press conference is a political tactic that is generally used to expose Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, as Scholz recently did when he visited Berlin.

“There seems to be a lack of communication and exchange between the respective new government teams of Scholz and Macron so far,” said Sandra Wieser of Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party, on the board of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly. “So we are certainly at the beginning of a new people-to-people political relationship, for which trust must first be built.”

The tension surrounding the media show is just the latest episode in a deepening row between the EU’s two superpowers.

In recent weeks, Scholz and Macron have sparred over how to deal with the energy crisis, how to overcome Europe’s defense weakness and how best to deal with China.

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The tension became public last week when a planned Franco-German cabinet meeting in Fontainebleau, France, was postponed to January due to major disagreements over the text of the joint declaration, as well as conflicting holiday plans by some German ministers. The disagreement between the two governments was also widely seen at the EU summit in Brussels last week.

The war in Ukraine, inflation and the energy crisis have strained European alliances at a time when they are most needed. What had always been an important alliance between Paris and Berlin seemed fractious at best.

French officials complain that Berlin does not treat them well enough as a close partner. The French, for example, claim they were not given advance notice of Germany’s €200 billion energy relief package, and they have assured their counterparts in Berlin that they are aware of their displeasure.

“In my conversations with French parliamentarians, it’s clear that people in Paris want more and closer coordination with Germany,” said Chantal Kopf, an MP for the Greens, one of the three parties in Germany’s governing coalition and a member of the board. Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly.

“Until now, this cooperation has worked well in times of crisis – think of the recovery fund during the coronavirus crisis, for example – and now the French want to respond to the current energy crisis or how to deal with China properly. , should be closely coordinated,” said Kopf.

At the end of last month, Paris seemed to hate Berlin German Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not find time to talk with French Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne Jens Schlueter/AFP via Getty Images

The same conclusion is drawn by Weser from the FDP, another coalition partner in the Berlin government. “Paris is irritated by Germany’s lowering of gas prices and its lack of support for joint European defense technology projects,” he said. At the same time, he accused the French government of dragging its feet on the recent connection of a new pipeline between the Iberian Peninsula and Northern Europe.

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unprecedented confrontations

The French government was recently angered by news that Scholz was planning to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing next week. This will be the first visit by a foreign leader since the Chinese president was elected for a third term. Germany and China are planning their own show when it comes to government consultations scheduled for January.

At the Elysée, it would be better if Macron and Scholz went to China together, and a little later, not after the Chinese Communist Party Congress, where Xi won another mandate. A French official said the visit, soon after the congress, would “legitimate” Xi Jinping’s third term and be “politically very expensive”.

Germany and France’s discordant approach to China contrasts with Xi Jinping’s last trip to Europe in 2019, which was welcomed by Macron, who invited former Chancellor Angela Merkel and former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Paris to show European unity.

Macron refrained from directly criticizing the controversial Hamburg port deal with China’s Cosco, which Scholz is pushing ahead of his trip to Beijing. But France’s president last week questioned the wisdom of allowing China to invest in “critical infrastructure”, warning that Europe had previously been “causing” Chinese purchases because “we thought Europe was an open supermarket”.

Vice-President of the Defense Committee of the National Assembly of France, Jean-Louis Thieriot, said that Germany is paying more attention to defense in Eastern Europe due to joint German-French projects. For example, Berlin has agreed with 13 NATO members, most of them on the northern and eastern European flanks, to acquire a joint air and missile defense shield—much to the chagrin of France.

“The situation is unprecedented,” Thieriot said. “Now the tension is rising faster and faster. In the last two months, Germany decided to stop working on it [Franco-German] Tiger helicopters, joint naval patrols are downed … And the signature of the air defense shield is deadly [to the defense relationship],” he said.

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Germany’s huge investment through a €100 billion military modernization fund, as well as Scholz’s commitment to NATO’s 2 percent of GDP defense spending target, will likely push the annual defense budget above €80 billion and mean Berlin is on track. Exceeded France’s 44 billion euro defense budget.

Illness letter

Last week’s cancellation of a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting was not the first clash between Berlin and Paris when it comes to high-level meetings.

In August, there was question whether Scholz and Macron would meet in Ludwigsburg on September 9, the 60th anniversary of former French President Charles de Gaulle’s speech in the southwestern German palace town. But despite the ceremony’s highly symbolic nature, the leaders never met — officials gave conflicting accounts of why, from appointment conflicts to alleged disagreements over who should bear the cost.

French President Emmanuel Macron Chinese Cosco | has refrained from direct criticism of the controversial deal with the Port of Hamburg Pool photo by Aurelien Morissard/AFP via Getty Images

Paris seemed to resent Berlin late last month when Scholz did not find time to speak with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne: A meeting between the two leaders in Berlin was canceled because the chancellor tested positive for the coronavirus. But several French officials told POLITICO that a later video conference was also canceled because the Germans told Born’s office that Scholz felt too ill.

Paris was further shocked and outraged when Scholz appeared via video at a press conference the same day, in which he appeared unhurt but instead confidently announced his 200 billion euro energy aid package. The French say they were not informed in advance. A German spokesman declined to comment.

Yannick Bury, a lawmaker from Germany’s center-right opposition who focuses on Franco-German relations, said Scholz should begin to restore ties with Macron. “It is important that France receives a clear signal that Germany has a strong interest in a close and reliable exchange.” – said Buri. “Trust is broken.”


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