Paris and Berlin still differ in their view of Europe

Last November they considered several German coalition programs, all interested in European issues in France delighted. After a disappointing Merkel era, Olaf Scholz’s future government composed of Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals has clearly identified European unity as a priority.

All the concepts that Emmanuel Macron has hammered out since his speech at the Sorbonne there, from the need for strategic autonomy in Europe to a common industrial policy. The German program even intimidated the compass of the Quai d’Orsay by showing its ambition to move to a “European federal state”.

Four months after the arrival of the shy Olaf Scholz, and while the French president was recently re-elected, the Franco-German horizon remains blocked. The relationship was good and the German Chancellery supported with kindness, as promised, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It accelerated the adoption of regulatory texts by digital giants, the Council vote on the carbon border tax that Berlin did not approve four months ago, the minimum wage, the return of public contracts and the strategic compass offering a new framework. for European security policy.

Great kindness

“The European Commission has been installed, the German and French governments are now in place, this is a good opportunity to continue our projects of common interest”, promises Jörg Kukies, Olaf Scholz’s Sherpa. According to him, the integration of EU energy and the policy implementation of the European climate program “Fit for 55” is the priority in the coming years.

However, Chancellor Scholz’s great discretion on the European scene since Russia’s attack on Ukraine has confused Paris. “We are hopeful for projects to revitalize Europe, including the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi. However, we have the impression that Olaf Scholz is struggling to find his place in the European landscape and that he can’t bring something solid to it, ”explains Eric Maurice, of the Schuman Foundation.

Thierry Chopin, political scientist and expert on European issues, is more serious. “There is a gap between, on the one hand, showing a very clear European ambition and, on the other hand, a hesitation in showing European unity with Ukraine in this embargo obstruction. of Russian gas. However, gas and oil revenues were the roots of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Scholz struggled to live according to the story. »

It is true that the Chancellor has nothing to do at home other than an update of the German model challenged by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine: “Review Russia’s energy dependence, its relationship to the war and more. globalization, Eric Maurice explains, is a complex mess to manage, especially as it is accompanied by the dangerous management of a three-party coalition in which the interests of each party differ.He has a problem with political authority that has implications for a European scale. »

Merkel’s legacy

For Alexandre Robinet-Borgomano, of the Institut Montaigne, “Olaf Scholz is burdened with Merkel’s legacy and he needs to clean it up before allowing Germany to change over time”. The two big mistakes of the former Chancellor? The surrender of Germany’s energy supply exclusively to Russia and the organization of the German economy’s excessive reliance on the Chinese market.

Eric Maurice agreed: “The Germans want the NordStream 2 gas pipeline to be a simple commercial project if it is a geopolitical topic that puts Germany at the mercy of Russia. In the same way,” 100 billion “The euro plan for the purchase of military equipment that Scholz has just announced has been going in the wrong direction for years. Germany has invested too much in Russia’s energy. Not enough in defense or strategic autonomy.” .

Its religion has not yet figured out how to use this 100 billion. To the chagrin of the CDU, which threatened not to give it the support it needed, the coalition refused exclusive weapons to the Bundeswehr. It wants to include spending on securing energy supply, humanitarian aid and development.

Result: “We have seen a loss of leadership from the Chancellor, who was hesitant and refused to act like Merkel, forced to act if she was trapped in her entrenchments. Her speech on February 27 announced a change in time and this vision made him gain credibility, of leadership capacity, Alexandre Robinet-Borgomano emphasized.But this rhetoric is not translated into action enough or too slowly.This principle of reality is contrary to the courage of ambition “, personified by Emmanuel Macron.

Disappointed expectations

Under these conditions, expectations in France could be disappointing. Especially since even if everyone is lowering their wine in the Stability Pact reform debate, Germany remains cautious about France’s ability to continue to hold public finances. “We have a European commitment from the German government that is clear but a phase of learning to work together that will last a few more months”, acknowledged the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune .

He sees little of Olaf Scholz’s behavior as that of Angela Merkel: a cautious approach to small steps and the rational construction of compromises. The quantum leap that Angela Merkel made at the end of her last term, her successor is not yet ready for it. Not to build a new economic recovery fund or to jointly finance Europe’s defense effort. Olaf Scholz’s European software remains under construction.

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