French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (Christophe Ena, Pool/AP)
22 January 2023

France and Germany renew alliance strained amid war in Ukraine

22 January 2023

France and Germany on Sunday committed to giving Ukraine “unwavering support” and to strengthening the European Union, as they sought to overcome differences over defence, energy and economic issues on the 60th anniversary of their post-Second World War friendship treaty.

The German government’s entire cabinet was in Paris for joint meetings with their French counterparts, and about 300 MPs from the two countries came together at the Sorbonne University during the day of ceremonies and talks.

The war in Ukraine has exposed differences in strategy between the two countries, notably in European talks on how to deal with the resulting energy crisis and punishing inflation, as well as over future military investments.

Both countries have contributed significant weaponry to Ukraine, but Ukraine is asking for tanks and more powerful arms as Russia’s war drags on.

Germany is under pressure to approve the transfer of Leopard 2 battle tanks, which are made in the country.

Speaking during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron said he does not rule out sending Leclerc tanks to Ukraine and has asked his defence minister to “work on” the idea.

Mr Scholz did not comment on whether Germany would agree to provide the Leopards, instead stressing what his country has already supplied.

“The US is doing a lot. Germany is doing a lot, too,” the chancellor said. “We have constantly expanded our deliveries with very effective weapons that are already available today, and we have always co-ordinated all these decisions closely with our important allies and friends.”

In a joint declaration, the two countries said they “will continue to show unwavering support to Ukraine in all areas possible” and will “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”.

France and Germany also pledged to “work together for a European Union that is more resilient, more sustainable and more capable to act independently.”

The treaty that sealed a bond between long-time enemies France and Germany 60 years ago underpinned today’s EU.

“Let us use our inseparable friendship to shape the present and future of our continent, together with our European partners,” Mr Scholz said at the ceremony at the Sorbonne.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “imperialism will not win. We will not allow Europe to revert to a time when violence replaced politics and our continent was torn apart by hatred and national rivalries,” he added.

Mr Macron called for “a new energy model” in the EU based on diversifying supplies and encouraging carbon-free energy production.

In their joint declaration, Paris and Berlin committed to “stepping up our investments in the technologies of tomorrow, particularly renewable and low carbon energies”.

They especially committed to develop a “joint road map” on hydrogen.

They said a joint pipeline project by Spain, France and Portugal to transport green hydrogen, produced from renewable sources, is to be extended to Germany.

The so-called H2Med undersea pipeline from the Iberian peninsula to France is set to enter operation by 2030.

It is expected to transport up to two million metric tons of green hydrogen a year, which amounts to 10% of the total European Union’s consumption, according to Spanish authorities.

Aside from Ukraine, the talks focused on Europe’s response to the subsidies for US electric car-makers and other businesses in the Joe Biden administration’s inflation reduction act.

France wants Europe to counter what it considers an unfair move by Washington.

Paris is pushing for the EU to relax rules on state subsidies in order to accelerate their allocation, simplify the bloc’s support for investments and create an EU sovereign fund to boost green industries. Berlin, however, warns against protectionism.

“The Franco-German engine is a compromise machine – well-oiled, but also loud at times and marked by hard work,” Mr Scholz said.

The Franco-German engine is a compromise machine - well-oiled, but also loud at times and marked by hard work

“We defined today a common approach to move toward an ambitious and rapid European action based on making our aid system more simple, with a greater visibility, and to provide the right financing tools, both public and private,” Mr Macron said.

French-German government meetings are usually held at least once a year to co-ordinate policies. The last one was held in May 2021 via videoconference due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sunday’s gathering was the first in-person meeting since 2019.

The officials were marking the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty signed by French president and wartime anti-Nazi resistance leader Charles de Gaulle and West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer on January 22, 1963.

Berlin and Paris have a decades-long history of bilateral irritants and European disputes that coexist with the countries’ friendship and co-operation.

France and Germany have been described as the “engine” of the EU. They have always found compromises even in difficult terrain since they co-founded, with four other countries, the forerunner of the EU in 1957.

“The Franco-German engine is a compromise machine – well-oiled, but also loud at times and marked by hard work,” Mr Scholz said.

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