Behind the differences between Paris and Berlin, the isolation of Scholz’s Germany

“It is good neither for Europe nor for Germany that [cette dernière] isolate themselves », warned Emmanuel Macron, on October 20, before joining a meeting of European heads of state and government in Brussels. By dropping this sentence twenty-four hours after the cancellation of the Franco-German Council of Ministers, scheduled for Wednesday, October 26 in Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne), the President of the Republic could not signify more clearly than the differences between Paris and Berlin is the symptom, in his eyes, of a much larger problem: the growing isolation of Germany in Europe. An isolation that the Head of State and Chancellor Olaf Scholz will find hard to forget when they finally meet on Wednesday for a simple working lunch at the Elysée.

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That this declaration had the immediate objective of making Mr. Scholz give in on the eve of a European Council is set to be particularly difficult, it seems quite obvious. “Macron sought to isolate Berlin and dramatize the situation to make Germany move”, judge Sébastien Maillard, director of the Jacques-Delors Institute. In retrospect, the coup was probably not badly played since the German Chancellor failed to accept that a gas price cap mechanism be reflected at Community level, which he had refused so far. Beyond these tactical considerations, remains the diagnosis: that of a Germany which, by its positions, would show itself above all anxious to defend its own interests, at the expense of its European partners.

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Within the European Union (EU), France is not alone in expressing such grief. “I hope Germany understands that we are twenty-seven member states and that if everyone thinks only of themselves, the community as a whole will lose”worried the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, on October 20, on the German channel ZDF. “EU energy policy must not bend to German diktat”had accused Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki two weeks earlier of standing up against the 200 billion euro plan announced by Olaf Scholz to mitigate the effects of rising gas prices on consumers and businesses. “Germany had already shown its arrogance by lecturing others during the financial crisis [de 2008] and that of Covid-19. Today, this same country is using the formidable strength of its economy to mobilize enormous resources solely to help its own industry.Mr. Morawiecki was then annoyed.

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