During the visit of French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), the two politicians signed a joint declaration on energy solidarity. France has been supplying gas to Germany since mid-October. In return, the French electricity supply is to be improved by a further increase in supplies from Germany during the coming winter. In France, there is a risk of supply bottlenecks in the power supply in winter because the maintenance of a number of nuclear reactors is taking longer than planned.
Borne had previously been received by Scholz in the Chancellery with military honours. What has happened between Germany and France in the past few days can also be described as a repair operation. “More than ever, we want the Franco-German tandem to become the motor for Europe,” said Borne after meeting Scholz. With regard to Germany and France, the Chancellor praised the “quality of our partnership”.
After the irritations of the past few weeks – for example, a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in Paris recently ended without the usual press conference – both sides were once again concerned with clarifying their differences in the area of defense and forget about energy policy.
In the armaments sector, there is a problem with the planned joint FCAS air defense system. Actually, the French-German-Spanish air defense system is supposed to replace the Eurofighter and the Rafale jet from 2040. In the meantime, a political agreement has been reached for the next stage of development. However, an agreement between the aircraft manufacturers Dassault and Airbus is still missing. Scholz explained that he was “very confident” about further developments. According to Borne, the industry representatives had already reached an agreement that still had to be implemented.
On the other hand, Germany and France are on the same page when it comes to the US “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA). Scholz and Borne expressed their concern that the IRA could lead to distortions of competition to the detriment of Europeans. The controversial law is not only intended to fight inflation, but also provides billions in incentives for the expansion of renewable energy. Borne explained that on the one hand it was good news that the USA was moving towards the energy transition. On the other hand, given the US subsidies, care must be taken to ensure that there are no distortions of competition between the US and Europe, she added.
The IRA also aims to boost local manufacturing in the US. Critics therefore accuse US President Joe Biden of protectionism. There are also fears that the “Inflation Reduction Act” could cause entire value chains to migrate from Europe to the USA.
Immediately before Borne’s visit, several members of the federal government had been in Paris in the past week. The fact that Macron also attaches great importance to getting the Franco-German engine going again was shown by the fact that the head of state took time for Economics Minister Robert Habeck, Annalena Baerbock (both Greens) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP).
After the conversation between Macron and Habeck last Tuesday, it was said from French circles that the discussion between the head of state and the minister from Germany had revolved around, among other things, strengthening Europe as an industrial location and the high energy prices. In addition to the chancellor, Macron may also be looking for other contacts in Berlin. The Greens in particular are very open to Macron’s project of “European sovereignty”.
However, the current dispute over the EU gas price cap means that the Greens cannot accommodate Macron too much at EU level either. France is demanding a maximum price for gas imports into the EU, while Germany is skeptical about such market interventions. So it was then, of all people, State Secretary for Economic Affairs Sven Giegold (Greens), who knows the Brussels business very well as a former MEP, who defended the German position at the EU Energy Council on Thursday. “It is important for us that the markets do not get confused, but instead that we tackle the causes of the high prices,” said Giegold.
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