France-Germany: What does the election of Soltz as chancellor mean for the differences between the two countries


Olaf Solz paid his first official visit as new chancellor on Friday (10/12). Paris was his destination, where he had a four-on-four with Emanuel Macron.

According to tradition, the first trip of the highest German official is made to the French capital, with the symbolism clear. Chancellor Soltz did not break the rule and gave the “present” to the Elysee, to meet with President Macron.

The two leaders, in their meeting today, downplayed the differences over the reform of the EU fiscal rules and the position of nuclear energy in the financing of green investments, pledging to keep the Franco-German axis strong.

“For the last four years I have been working with Angela Merkel on all these issues – I know we will continue together, dear Olaf, this close collaboration,” Macron told Soltz in a joint press conference.

The more restrained Soltz said they discussed how they could work together to make Europe stronger.

Arriving at the Elysee, the new chancellor was greeted with the special handshake of the times – I say with a coronavirus – by Macron, who accompanied him on the steps, patting him friendly on the shoulder. The French president had developed a friendly relationship with Merkel, who broke with the German tradition, supporting for the first time joint efforts of the European Union to increase public debt during the pandemic.

The issues between France and Germany that there is distance

But the two sides continue to disagree on some crucial issues, such as Germany’s gas imports from Russia, Europe’s defense, and relations with other major political and economic rivals, including China.

Macron wants to build new nuclear reactors in France, while Berlin plans to phase them out. The agreement on the new German government does not mention the issue, but this – according to Paris – leaves room for compromise.

Asked at today’s press conference about the differences between Germany and France over whether nuclear energy can be considered sustainable, something France wants, Soltz declined to answer.

“It is very clear that each country is pursuing its own strategy to combat man-made climate change. “What unites us is that we recognize this responsibility and that we are ambitious,” he said, adding: “Germany has decided to rely on expanding its renewable energy sources.”

As France prepares to take over the six-month presidency of the European Union on 1 January, Macron will also seek German support for his plans to reshape EU fiscal rules.

“I’m confident that we can solve the problems we face together and that we can continue to facilitate the development that has been made possible by the recovery fund (from the € 750 billion EU pandemic) – and that “At the same time, we can ensure fiscal stability.”

“It is possible to achieve both at the same time, it is not the opposite. “We promised to use the flexibility offered by the Stability and Growth Pact,” Macron added.

The French president also warned of the danger of self-fulfilling prophecies after the assessment of the US secret services, according to which Russia may plan a multifaceted attack on Ukraine even next year.

“I think our primary goal is to prevent any unnecessary tension, what I would call self-fulfilling prophecy,” Macron said in response to a question. He added: “What we all want, Europeans and Americans alike, is to show that we are monitoring the situation closely.”

The French president said he had spoken to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, earlier on Friday and that they would discuss new initiatives to unblock peace talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine when they meet next week.

“We will take further action to ensure that Ukraine has a good outlook,” Solz said. “We have a good basis that needs to be revitalized – for example the Normandy-style talks,” he said, referring to talks between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine aimed at resolving the crisis.  

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