UNDERSTAND IT ALL – Energy, weapons, sovereignty… what’s happening between France and Germany?

Between France and Germany, relations are not the best. The list of sensitive topics is growing. A look back at these disagreements between the two countries that form the basis of the EU.

Nothing is going well between France and Germany, which, according to Paris, is going it alone on both defense and energy. On both sides of the Rhine, the arguments are calculated to throw the blame on the other or to find ways of reconciliation.

“No one will ever be able to dissolve the Franco-German couple. The Franco-German alliance has always been and will remain at the heart of European construction. There is no alternative”, declared the Minister of Finance and French Economy, Bruno Le Maire at Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung this week.

The war in Ukraine has only worsened the situation both in terms of the defense of Europe and the energy crisis. A sign of higher than normal voltages, Germany decided on Wednesday to postpone the Franco-German Council of Ministers until January which was to be held on October 26 in Fontainebleau. A first since the creation of this meeting in 2003 by Jacques Chirac.

Officially, the ministers’ agenda would not allow them all to be present. Unofficially, this meeting cannot be held until agreements have been reached on the sticking points. And many of them have been settled in just three months.

Germany is accused of wanting to go it alone. Emmanuel Macron warns his isolation would not be “good” neither for Germany nor for Europe”. In order to ease the situation, the French President receives the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Paris on Wednesday 26 October.

A look back at the disagreements between the two countries that form the basis of the EU.

• The truly European “Shield of Heaven”?

The anti-aircraft shield for European defense is that of disagreement. Instead of organizing a common defense, Germany wants to become the central player in European defense. Berlin brought together fourteen member states of NATO for the joint procurement of anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense equipment within the framework of an initiative called “Shield of the European Sky”, of which France is not part and from which the French industrialist MBDA has been excluded.

To protect Northern and Eastern Europe against a Russian threat, the chosen system does not come from the European arms industry. This is the Arrow 3, a $2 billion device developed by the Israeli IAI with the American Boeing.

“The Germans are putting themselves in a situation where, when they want to use them, they will have to ask for permission (in the US and Israel, editor’s note)”, says Eric Béranger, CEO of MBDA, on BFM Business . disagreement between France and Germany over the concept of sovereignty.

Arrow 3, capable of intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes of over 100 kilometers and with a range of up to 2,400 kilometers. Berlin wants it to be operational from 2025 in three locations in Germany to protect its territory, but also Poland, Romania and the Baltic states.

• What is the status of conventional weapons programs?

For years, France and Germany have been partners in the development of future weapons systems. In the air, it is the Scaf program (air combat system of the future), where the 5th generation fighter, NGF (New generation fighter) will replace the Rafale and Eurofighter from 2040.

This program is not progressing despite the budget vote to already create a demonstrator in 2025 by Paris, Berlin and Madrid, also partners. It is a dispute between the French Dassault Aviation and the European Airbus, which disputes the project management of the unit. However, Airbus has won all the other projects. Its German unit will lead the design of the drones, and Combat Cloud and its Spanish subsidiary are responsible for the development of stealth technologies.

But beyond that, a political disagreement does not advance the matter either. Already in 2020, a report by the German Ministry of Defense noted that “strong French positioning” risked transforming the new generation of fighters, the NGF into “Rafale +”, financed with the help of Germany and Spain. If the argument changes over time, this line does not change. Last September, the German General Staff, which validated a contract to buy about 30 F-35s, confirmed its opposition.

“I want materials that fly, that drive and that are available on the market. No development of European solutions that ultimately do not work”, declared a few weeks ago General Eberhard Zorn, head of state of the Bundeswehr.

This statement serves several purposes. In addition to the Scaf, General Zorn evokes the tank of the future MGCS (Main Groud Combat System), which will replace the Leclerc and Leopard in 2035.

At the same time, other decisions have shaken the partnership between France and Germany. Main contractor for Eurodrone, Airbus chose the American GE’s engine over Safran’s. Finally, there was a contract with Boeing for five P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol boats thus shutting down the MAWS program, which aimed to replace the Atlantique 2 of the French Navy and the P-3 Orion of the German Navy from 2030.

• Why did Germany not want to put a cap on gas prices?

The NordStream gas pipeline was already the subject of dispute between France and Germany. His sabotage only made things worse. Berlin fears that it will not be able to have enough energy to get through the winter and must now rely on help from Europe, especially France.

A week ago, France began sending gas directly to Germany for the first time. But France, along with 14 other EU member states, is calling for a gas price ceiling.

Berlin opposed this mechanism for several reasons. She fears that the gas sellers will turn to other markets if a maximum price is imposed on them. But also, she fears not being able to have enough energy to get through the winter and count on help from Europe, especially from France.

The German Greens, who participate in Olaf Scholz’s government, criticize the failures of the French nuclear program, which would pose a threat to the energy supply in the two countries. They point to the state of French nuclear power plants, which would force Berlin to make up for shortfalls with electricity from gas-fired power plants.

On Thursday, after more than ten hours of hard discussions, the Twenty-Seven reached an agreement. Hedging is ultimately considered. The Commission must now work on the subject.

Lettet noted an EU diplomat that “the Germans were against everything. The biggest difficulty was Germany”.

• How do you agree after Nord Stream?

The revival of the MidCat gas pipeline provokes a controversy. It was started in 2013 and was stopped in 2019 due to its environmental impact. Madrid and Berlin, supported by Lisbon and the Central European countries, are fighting for the relaunch of this project that connects Spain with Germany. The gas pipeline could make it possible to transport gas that comes in the form of LNG from the US or Qatar, or even “green hydrogen”.

But Emmanuel Macron is against this project: “I don’t understand why we would jump like children from the Pyrenees on this subject to explain that it would solve the gas problem”, he replied, making a subtle allusion to “child” Europeans from General De Gaulle”.

Finally, France, Spain and Portugal announced on Thursday that they had reached an agreement to replace the MidCat project with an undersea pipeline between Barcelona and Marseille to transport gas and then green hydrogen.

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