SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Macron and Scholz enjoy ‘friendly’ lunch after tensions between France and Germany

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for lunch on Wednesday, with both sides saying they made progress towards easing differences on energy and defence dogging the European Union's vital double act.

Macron and Scholz enjoy 'friendly' lunch after tensions between France and Germany
France's President Emmanuel Macron hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for lunch in Paris on Wednesday. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The two leaders were “of one mind on the major directions” of policy, a German diplomatic source said after the meeting, while a source in the French presidency called it “very constructive”.

“Today was a very good and important conversation on European energy supply, rising prices and joint arms projects,” Scholz tweeted.

“Germany and France stand close together and are tackling challenges jointly”.

Macron and Scholz were at pains to put on a show of friendliness as Scholz climbed out of his black Mercedes on arrival, with both smiling and shaking hands.

The pair spoke for around an hour longer than planned, including a one-on-one session without advisers.

The German source said they discussed issues including “European energy policy, national energy policies, economic development, defence, space and foreign policy”.

Meanwhile the French presidency said the talks were “in a spirit of very close cooperation for the medium- and long-term”.

But Macron and Scholz did not appear before journalists to announce any joint decisions or take questions.

Recent weeks had seen growing signs of discord between Berlin and Paris, under pressure from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its knock-on effects especially on energy markets.

Berlin’s move to spend up to €200 billion subsidising soaring gas prices and refusal to consider an EU-wide energy price cap nettled Paris and other European capitals, who fear the effect on their energy costs.

On defence, France is rattled by German plans for a shared missile shield with other NATO nations using American equipment, while longer-term projects to jointly develop new fighter jets and tanks appear stalled.

A big-spending “new era” of German defence policy announced by Scholz following the Russian attack has not translated into major contracts within Europe, especially for French firms as Macron hoped.

Wednesday’s meeting came instead of a postponed joint cabinet meeting between Paris and Berlin, which would have been Scholz’s first as chancellor.

So far, the German leader – in office for less than a year – has not developed the same warmth with Macron as his predecessor Angela Merkel, who “texted every day”, one French diplomatic source said ahead of the talks.

Strained ties between the EU’s two largest and most populous economies – in the past often the brokers of compromise among the bloc’s 27 members – have come at exactly the wrong time.

Russia’s invasion and the resulting disruption to the energy system have coincided with rising tensions between China and the West, as well as fears that more isolationist forces could return to power in Washington.

Berlin and Paris also differ on how to make the EU more agile faced with the new challenges, and how quickly to admit new members.

Macron warned that “both of us, together with the EU as a whole, are confronted with one of the biggest, furthest-reaching crises ever experienced by Europe,” with “a lot of work ahead,” the German diplomatic source said.

“Agreement between France and Germany is not sufficient, because everyone else has to agree, but it is necessary,” said Stephane Dion, Canadian ambassador to France and former envoy to Germany.

“They remain the motor of Europe. For Europe to work, that motor has to work,” he added.

France’s Europe minister Laurence Boone told the Senate Wednesday that the two countries should aim to resolve their differences “by the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty” on January 22nd.

Signed by post-war leaders Charles De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, the pact forms the foundations of French-German cooperation.

For now the two sides have agreed to set up “working groups… that will have the two governments working closely together towards the next steps in the coming days,” the Elysée said.

The groups cover topics including defence and security, energy and innovation, the German source said.

Macron and Scholz also agreed to talk “before and after” the German leader’s upcoming visit to China and the French president’s visit to the US, the German source said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

CRIME

French ex-minister convicted in fake jobs scam

A French court on Thursday found former justice minister Michel Mercier guilty of embezzlement in a fake jobs scheme he ran for the benefit of family members.

French ex-minister convicted in fake jobs scam

Mercier, 75, who served under former president Nicolas Sarkozy between 2010 and 2012, claimed tens of thousands of euros for his wife and daughter for parliamentary jobs  they never carried out.

The court handed him a suspended prison sentence of three years.

Mercier gave “personal gain precedence over the public good”, the court said in its verdict, calling Mercier’s actions “serious”.

As senator, Mercier claimed 50,000 euros ($54,000 at today’s rate) in salary for his wife Joelle between 2005 and 2009, and  €37,000 for his daughter Delphine between 2012 and 2014.

During that time, Delphine Mercier was living in London and did not set foot in the French Senate, but her father claimed she was acting as his “cultural advisor”.

Neither Mercier nor his daughter were able to provide any proof of actual work done.

Joelle Mercier, meanwhile, claimed during the trial that she had served as her husband’s representative at village fairs and funerals.

She was found guilty of conspiracy to embezzle public funds and of receiving stolen money and sentenced to a suspended prison term of 18 months and a €40,000 fine.

The court handed the daughter a 12-month suspended sentence and a fine of €10,000.

Prosecutors had asked for the ex-minister to serve one year behind bars, accusing him of “creating smoke screens” in his defence and seeking to mislead the court.

Mercier had based part of his defence on his rural roots, pitting his “common sense” against the “Parisians” of the national financial crimes unit PNF.

Several French politicians have been convicted for similar offences committed before France in 2017 banned National Assembly deputies and senators from employing family members.

The move came in reaction to a public outcry over a high-profile case involving former right-wing prime minister Francois Fillon, who was found guilty of providing a fake parliamentary assistant job to his wife that saw her paid hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds.

The “Penelopegate” scandal, revealed in a media report while he was the front-runner in the 2017 presidential race, torpedoed  his political career and cleared a path for then-relatively unknown Emmanuel Macron.

Last year, a court trimmed Fillon’s sentence to four years in prison with three suspended — down from five years with three suspended when he was first found guilty in 2020.

SHOW COMMENTS