German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was in Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, as the two leaders seek to overcome differences laid bare by the Ukraine war.
The German leader visited the French capital for a day of ceremonies marking 60 years since a landmark treaty sealed a bond between the longtime enemies that underpins today’s European Union.
Germany’s entire Cabinet was in Paris and 300 lawmakers from both countries met at the Sorbonne University. Both leaders will oversee two rounds of talks at the Elysee Palace, focusing on energy and economic policy as well as defence.
“Let us use our inseparable friendship … to shape the present and future of our continent, together with our European partners,” Scholz said at the ceremony at the Sorbonne.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year, the European peace project is at a “turning point”, he said.
“Putin’s imperialism will not win … We will not allow Europe to revert to a time when violence replaced politics and our continent was torn apart by hatred and national rivalries.”
Macron added: “Our unfailing support for the Ukrainian people will continue in every field.”
Pierre Haski, a political analyst, said the meeting comes as an occasion to show how France and Germany still hold trust and confidence in each other.
“This was a good occasion … a political expression, a joint commitment to supporting Ukraine and solving the problem between them in Europe,” Haski said.
Paris and Berlin have adopted different approaches on several issues, from handling the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout to the energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of its neighbouring country has exposed differences in strategy between the two nations, notably in European talks about how to deal with the resulting energy crisis and punishing inflation, as well as over future military investment.
Macron has called for “a new energy model” in the EU based on diversifying supplies and encouraging carbon-free energy production.
“In times of crisis, every time there has been a crisis, France and Germany have difficulty in finding a common approach, but in the end they find it,” Haski said, pointing to the German and French initiative to establish European recovery funds in 2020 to support European countries worst hit by the pandemic.
The meeting comes as leaders across Europe fear distortions in transatlantic trade from the United States Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which will pour billions of dollars into US-made, climate-friendly technologies.
The legislation includes subsidies for US electric car makers and other businesses – a move considered unfair by France.
Paris is pushing for the EU to relax rules on state subsidies in order to accelerate their allocation, simplify the bloc’s support for investments and create an EU sovereign fund to boost green industries. Berlin, however, has warned against protectionism.