• Bad Signals

    Serious differences between Berlin and Paris overshadow Franco-German cabinet meeting in Hamburg. Issues of contention: Armament, energy market, foreign policy. Berlin slashes Goethe Institutes’ funding in France.

    BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) – Serious differences overshadow first joint cabinet meeting between the German and French governments beginning today (Monday). Officially, the two-day meeting, attended by the heads of governments and ministers, will focus on the transformation of industry and the strengthening of the EU’s technological sovereignty. De facto, it will be aimed at exploring ways to improve relations between Berlin and Paris, which are currently desolate and continue to deteriorate. Several Franco-German arms projects have been regularly making headlines: Projects, said to be of strategic importance for the EU’s “strategic autonomy,” but which have barely gotten off the ground or have even failed. New issues of contention are constantly being added, most recently fierce disputes over the EU’s reform of the energy market, but also on serious foreign policy differences, for example on the question of which position to take in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Already in September, Germany’s Economics Minister Robert Habeck concluded that Berlin and Paris actually “do not agree on anything.” Read more

  • A New Epoch of Confrontation

    Franco-German disputes delay joint follow-on project for the Leopard 2. French experts see bilateral relations in a deep crisis.

    BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) – The Franco-German Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). A successor project to the Leopard 2 battle tank is threatened to fail. As the German defense ministry admits in a confidential report, disagreements between Berlin and Paris have already led to “delays of several years in the original programing schedule,” barely six years after the program was launched. The completion of the MGCS, planned for 2035 is “no longer feasible.” The MGCS is expected to be operational in 2040 at the earliest. Meanwhile, German tank producers are presenting alternatives, for example Rheinmetall’s Panther battle tank. In addition, the Leopard 2A8, a next-generation version of the tried and tested Leopard 2 is in planning. Franco-German disputes mark the European armaments sector also beyond the MGCS, for example, pertaining to the next generation fighter jet, the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) or Berlin’s plans for a new European air defense system. Experts in Paris point out that, in the Ukraine war, not France but the German government has aligned itself closer with the USA and warn of an intra-European “epoch of confrontation.” Read more

  • EU’s Strategic Sovereignty

    Berlin and Paris strive for greater EU sovereignty vis-à-vis the USA and embark on massive rearmament – due also to Germany's severe setbacks in its rivalry with Washington.

    PARIS/BERLIN (Own report) -Germany and France are seeking greater “European sovereignty” and aim to “strengthen the EU as a geopolitical actor,” according to a Franco-German declaration published yesterday in Paris on the occasion of the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Élysée Treaty. The declaration provides military support for Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” announces new armament projects, and a Franco-German exercise in the “Indo-Pacific.” This is also due to Germany's severe setbacks in its rivalry with the Unites States, including its growing military dependence and the threat of its deindustrialization due to the exodus of production sites to the USA. According to the French publicist Emmanuel Todd, the current global power struggle – “the third world war has begun” – is also “about Germany.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz anticipates the emergence of a “multipolar world,” in which Germany and the EU are to assume leading roles as strong military powers. Read more

  • The Lopsided Berlin-Paris Axis

    Merkel's last Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting feigns harmonious relations. Yet Merkel had successively increased Berlin's predominance over Paris.

    BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - The Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting ended yesterday with a conspicuous display of harmony. He would like to thank Chancellor Angela Merkel for her "commitment," "vigor" and "patience," French President Emmanuel Macron declared in reference to the fact that the Ministerial Council meeting was the last such meeting with Merkel's participation. The Chancellor stressed that it was “always an enrichment when we reach a common solution." The declarations of harmony conceal the fact that, since she took office in late 2005, Merkel has succeeded in systematically increasing Berlin's predominance over Paris - from imposing Germany's austerity policy during the euro crisis against fierce French resistance, to the successful rejection of Macon's plea for a euro zone fiscal union. Their current disputes pertain to the war in Mali, where a defeat of the European powers is looming and the development of a new sixth-generation fighter jet (FCAS) almost encountered an impasse due to bitter internal rivalries. Read more

  • Dispute Over Policy Towards Turkey

    EU remains divided over Turkey's aggressive foreign policy ("Neo-Ottomanism"/"Blue Homeland").

    BERLIN/PARIS/ANKARA (Own report) - A fierce controversy within the EU on how to deal with Turkey overshadows the current EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin - a controversy caused by the ongoing maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean by Turkish naval forces, on the one hand, and by Greek naval forces on the other. The combat drills were provoked by Turkey's search for oil and gas in waters also claimed by Greece. Ankara's foreign policy, which has become increasingly aggressive over the past few years - now even including a maritime component, known as the "Blue Homeland ("Mavi Vatan") concept - has been fueling this power struggle. The German government seeks to continue its close cooperation with Turkey, also to ward off refugees, and is therefore looking for a settlement between Athens and Ankara. France, however, pursuing different interests in the Mediterranean, is siding with Greece. The implementation of Germany's objective of harmonizing EU policy toward Turkey, is nowhere in sight. Read more

  • Franco-German Conflicts

    New divergences in the EU: Paris calls for more cooperation with Russia and more confrontation with Turkey.

    BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - Serious conflicts between Berlin and Paris over foreign policy overshadow the beginning of the German EU Presidency. French President Emmanuel Macron's ongoing endeavors to cooperate more closely with Russia are being met with resentment in the German capital. During a recent two-hour long video conference with his Russian counterpart. he agreed to soon visit Moscow. In fact, the German government lays claim to leadership in determining the EU's policy toward Russia. There is also the conflict between France and Turkey, which had considerably escalated after a Turkish naval vessel carried out radar targeting of a French frigate in June. Paris therefore withdrew from a NATO operation and is demanding tougher EU sanctions being imposed on Ankara. This runs counter to Berlin's intention to seek the kind of cooperation with Turkey that can safeguard the refugee pact and serve its own geostrategic interests. The dispute could escalate next week when the EU foreign ministers meet. Read more

  • "To the Second League"

    Chancellor Merkel receives President Emmanuel Macron in the German town of Meseberg. France falls further behind Germany during the crisis.

    BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - German Chancellor Merkel will host French President Emmanuel Macron today to discuss the German EU Council Presidency, which begins on Wednesday, and the European Economic Recovery Plan. The meeting is to suggest a stable Franco-German cohesion in combating the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, France is much more affected by the crisis than Germany. France benefits comparatively little from the EU Recovery Plan and is falling further behind in the inner-European power struggle with Germany. France is at risk of being relegated "to the second league" according to French commentators. Also in view of the 89th anniversary of the German invasion of France, Macron recently reported that he was currently studying the analysis " L'Ètrange Défaite" (The Strange Defeat), written by French historian Marc Bloch in 1940, on the reasons for the French defeat in World War II. With reference to the shared history of the war, Paris and London are intensifying their cooperation. Read more

  • Permanent Damage (I)

    Protests in France and Luxembourg against the closure of German borders, harassment by German federal police and anti-French chauvinism.

    BERLIN/PARIS/LUXEMBOURG (Own report) - Over the weekend, hundreds of French and Luxembourgian citizens have protested the ongoing closure of German borders. On March 16, the German government unilaterally reinstated strict border controls. Since then, German police have prevented more than 100,000 citizens of several neighboring countries from entering Germany. Berlin's measures have been causing considerable hardships also for French and Luxembourgian citizens, working in German factories and hospitals. They are also being regularly exposed to harassment by German border police and to a resurgence of old anti-French chauvinism in Germany. French commuters are increasingly being treated as "second-class EU citizens," notes a French senator. The former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had warned that "Germany will cause permanent damage with the way it is treating some of its neighbors." Germany's crisis policy is also provoking protests in Southern and Eastern Europe. Read more

  • SHANGHAI/BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - Franco-German disagreements are accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron's current trip to China, where he is assuming the role of a leading EU representative. He is promoting a speedy conclusion of an economic treaty between the Union and the People's Republic. He is accompanied by the Union's designated Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan and Germany's Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek. This is his way of seeking to lay the groundwork for a unified EU policy regarding China - contrary to Germany's pursuit of its national interests in its relationship to Beijing. Germany usually seeks a common approach toward the People's Republic of China, when other EU countries, such as Greece or Italy, begin to closely cooperate with China within the framework of the "New Silk Road" project. Macron is making an effort to set both confrontational and cooperative EU policies toward Beijing, and thereby position the Union on an equal footing between the USA and China. Read more

  • BERLIN/PARIS (Own report) - Franco-German power struggles are blocking further EU expansion plans and overshadowing the EU-summit, which begins today in Brussels. Berlin is pushing hard for opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania to prevent these two countries from turning their backs on the Union - which brings them little advantage - and turn instead toward other powers such as China and Russia, with whom cooperation promises greater benefits. Paris is rejecting Berlin's demand. As long as the German government rejects French projects, such as a euro zone budget, France is simply unwilling to bow to Germany's wishes, one hears in Paris. The discussion on accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania will be continued at the summit. Whereas the EU remains bogged down, Beijing and Moscow, - but also Washington - are seeking to strengthen their positions in Southeast Europe. Read more