| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Behind facade of unity, Franco-German relations falter as crises mount

Germany’s government failed to inform France in advance of its 200 billion euro ($200 billion) plan to protect its industry and consumers from skyrocketing energy prices, leaving French President Emmanuel Macron fuming in private.

“The media is how we found out about it. That’s not how it’s done “a high-ranking French official stated.

Days previously, German officials had visited the Elysée Palace but made no mention of the package that Paris says gives German businesses an unfair edge and jeopardizes the single market of the European Union.

The number of issues on which France and Germany – the EU’s two richest and most influential members – are at odds is growing, from the bloc’s defence strategy to its response to the energy crisis, relations with China and even fiscal policy.

The standoff comes as the EU struggles to reach an agreement on whether to cap gas prices in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

It is also impacting Europe’s plans to build its next generation of fighter jets, gas pipeline projects across the EU, German plans to let China invest in its ports.

Macron’s decision last week to postpone a joint cabinet meeting underlined the French president’s frustration. Berlin blamed logistical difficulties and played down the rift.

To be sure, the Franco-German couple have had their ups and downs before and divorce has never ensued.

But Europe can ill afford a breakdown in relations that weakens EU unity as it firefights multiple crises: Russia’s war on its eastern fringe, spiralling inflation and its biggest economies teetering on the brink of recession.

“The goal is to make Berlin understand there’s a problem,” the senior French official said.

But beyond the different dossiers that have been the bane of French and German diplomats for years, a clash of personalities, rivalry for European leadership and wider strategic differences are now bursting out into the open, despite efforts to maintain a facade of unity, French and German sources say.

  • Reuters