Obviously, they will be all smiles in the photo. Long, frank handshakes, tight hugs, fiery declarations. On January 22, Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Olaf Scholz will together celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty marking the reconciliation between the two countries. However, behind the scenes, the atmosphere is not really looking good. Crises, the Franco-German tandem has experienced in the past. As in 2000, between Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder during the European summit in Nice. But today, the war in Ukraine, which is turning the entire German model upside down, and Emmanuel Macron’s ambitions to build European sovereignty are bringing to light dissensions long passed over in silence. Whether in terms of defence, industrial policy, energy strategy or when it comes to displaying a united front against China or American protectionist excesses, the responses from Paris and Berlin are variable in geometry. When they are not orthogonal. Detailed review of annoying subjects.
Space: a foretaste of the Franco-German divorce
“OK Kourou, we have a problem!” Ariane, pride of European cooperation and darling of the Franco-German couple is no more than a shadow of herself. And not only because last fall, the first launch of Ariane 6, the future European rocket, was once again postponed. No maiden flight before the end of 2023, at best. Nearly ten years that ArianeGroup and the ESA (the European Space Agency) have been working on this new machine, multiplying delays and disappointments. A snail’s tempo against the SpaceX cheetah. On the commercial side, the dive descent of Ariane is spectacular: in 2022, the European carried out only five launches against 60 for its competitor, SpaceX’s Falcon 9. “The Germans are very annoyed by the heaviness of ArianeGroup, the rule of geographical return, the French technological choices which would first benefit the tricolor industry and especially the sums engulfed. The system cracks”, enumerates Xavier Pasco, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research.
Germans who, more and more openly, imagine a future solo in space. Copying the American “New Space” method, three German start-ups have embarked on the design of small launchers.
“Germany, a major automotive nation, does not want to miss the boat of the autonomous vehicle. And for that, it must have strategic autonomy in the high-speed Internet provided by the constellations of small communications satellites”, adds Eric-Andre Martin from the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri).
In haste, France followed suit. “But we are two years behind them,” blows the boss of a French start-up.
Energy: the nuclear bone of contention
“The obsession of the Germans for thirty years is the disintegration of EDF.” Stupefaction. We are on December 13, 2022 and before the National Assembly’s commission of inquiry into the reasons for France’s loss of energy sovereignty, Henri Proglio, the former boss of EDF, is shooting Berlin on sight, the Europe and the construction of the European energy market which means that the wholesale price of electricity is indexed to that of gas. “The Germans use gas, the whole process is German and the European regulations are German […] How do you expect this country, which has based its wealth, its efficiency and its credibility on its industry, to accept that France has a competitive tool as powerful as EDF at its doorstep?” continues Proglio.
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