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HomeEuropeFriends and Strangers: The Franco-German Relationship Is Cooling at a Critical Time

Friends and Strangers: The Franco-German Relationship Is Cooling at a Critical Time

'Quick read' news summary

Perhaps it's the choice of words that reveals the most about this relationship. He never speaks of the Franco-German couple as a matter of principle, says an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron on a gray winter day in Paris. In other words, vocabulary that has no place in the relationship between Paris and Berlin.

Perhaps it’s the choice of words that reveals the most about this relationship. He never speaks of the Franco-German couple as a matter of principle, says an adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron on a gray winter day in Paris. When you do, you automatically end up with categories like fidelity, love, marriage and divorce. In other words, vocabulary that has no place in the relationship between Paris and Berlin.

These days, the French are uninterested in romanticizing the relationship. “Emmanuel Macron is a strategist. For the president, joint European action is a geopolitical necessity, not a romantic matter,” people say at Élysée Palace, the president’s official office.

For years, the Franco-German friendship, this unlikely rapprochement of two nations after two world wars, has been glorified as a kind of love story. As a kind of amour fou between the Christian Democrat Helmut Kohl and the Socialist François Mitterrand. Or later, as the delicate bond between Angela Merkel, then Europe’s longest-serving politician, and a very young, extremely impatient President Macron. The picture had always been a bit off, but now it doesn’t fit at all.

The Ukraine war is creating historic challenges for Franco-German relations. It has brought many crucial issues to the forefront – a common defense policy, future energy supply and the unified positioning of Europe toward Russia. Issues, in other words, that had previously either been avoided or doled out in small portions at various meetings of German and French politicians at the ministerial level. That’s over now. With the war, there is no longer room for any more delays.

There’s something else that’s also creating pressure for the allies. In just over a week, Germany and France will need to

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