The Conference on the Future of Europe has concluded! The largest ever pan-European consultation with citizens presented its final report in the European Parliament on Europe Day, 9 May 2022. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron has said he will, at the June European Council Summit of EU leaders, raise the possibility a constitutional convention to discuss treaty change.

Following Macron’s remarks, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the German-French partnership “more important than ever as a motor and source of inspiration for the European project”. The two countries have pledged a joint consultation of ministers on the future of European integration, to be held in July following French legislative elections, so Paris and Berlin can adopt “one voice” on European reform.

On 28 April 2022, shortly after the French Presidential elections, we held an online panel discussion in German, with politicians and experts to discuss the future of Franco-German cooperation. Taking part were:

💬 Dr. Katarina Barley, former German Federal Minister and currently Vice-President of the European Parliament (SPD)

💬 Dr. Andreas Schwab, German Christian Democratic MEP

💬 Prof. Dr. Gisela Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet, Professor of Political Science at the University of Würzburg with a focus on European Studies and International Relations

💬 Théo Boucart, Head of the Media Department and former Vice-President of the Jeunes Européens (Young European Federalists) Strasbourg

The panel discussion itself was in German, but we’ve translated one question we received from Kostian into English for all you non-German speakers:

Europe is in the midst of a severe energy crisis where prices are increasing. France is ramping up its nuclear power as Germany is closing down their nuclear power plants. Does this show that there is not a unified approach between two of the most important EU countries when we talk about energy policies? Does that affect the EU Green Deal and the fight against climate change overall?

We had a response during the panel to this question from Prof. Dr. Gisela Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet, Professor of Political Science at the University of Würzburg, who said:

First of all, we must note that the specific energy mix that a Member State chooses is a national decision. As I said earlier, it is impossible to imagine countries that are more opposed to each other than Germany and France, and this is also evident in energy policy. Recently, we had the very controversial decision of the Commission to designate nuclear energy and gas as bridging technologies, i.e., in a way, as sustainable energy sources. Ms. Barley can certainly tell you a thing or two about how controversial this decision was and how much the implementation of this decision will continue to cause friction between Germany and France in the future.

In the context of the war in Ukraine – and accelerated by it – it now really does look as if the energy transition must be an absolute priority in European action in the coming months. This means not only reducing emissions in the sense of fighting climate change, but also promoting independence in the sense of the EU’s strategic sovereignty. And I have the impression that right now the opinion is: ‘Everything that annoys Putin; everything that promotes reductions in gas and oil imports is welcome at the moment’.

I would say that Macron is really lucky that the very controversial decision in Germany to see nuclear energy as a bridge to sustainability – that is very difficult for a German Social Democrat or Green to bear – is somewhat lost in this great challenge. And I would also say that the EU must become even more united. But that would mean that the decision on the energy mix would not have to remain exclusively in the hands of the nation state. Fine, but can any of you imagine that we – amid the current crisis – change the treaties? That is beyond my European political imagination!

So I think that we will have to live with these contradictions and tensions for some time to come. I don’t see any way out of it. I would only refer again to the priority: We must get rid of CO2 emissions, we have to get rid of our dependence on energy imports, and then, in the spirit of great pragmatism, we might also have to put up with the nuclear power plants and the restarted German coal-fired power plants – that is also part of the truth. I don’t see much more progress in terms of new competences for the EU.

We also had a response to Kostian from German Christian Democratic MEP Dr. Andreas Schwab:

The caution advised by Mrs. Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet can only be objectively supported. That is also the first point I would like to make. I believe that everyone who deals with Franco-German relations comes to reflective conclusions. Just like Mrs. Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet. But there are also those who, in this context, keep drawing attention to themselves with allegations that Mrs. von der Leyen is being used by Mr. Macron to weaken Germany. There is a whole series of rather absurd voices on Franco-German relations that we do not mention here. Therefore, I would like to do so. That is simply nonsense! We talk about all issues, even in a party-political controversial way, but in the end, we try to come to a solution in which both countries and all citizens from Germany and France and Europe succeed.

In this respect, one must understand Mrs. Müller-Brandeck-Bocquet’s cautious assessment. Of course, the French also want to manage their energy supply well. And they understand that the Germans no longer want nuclear power. But, of course, they say: ‘If the gas is to flow from Russia, there must be an alternative. And you can’t be too dogmatic about that, at least for a transitional period. In this respect, I believe that the core problem of the taxonomy decision is that the expansion between the connectors of the member states is not massively expanded at the same time. For only then does a uniformity of access to the capital markets make sense if the energy can actually flow without problems. And we have to push the French a little harder to build more interconnectors to Spain and Germany. There is European funding for this. But you have to be realistic about it. More needs to happen here.

Ms. Barley rightly pointed out that this recovery package was a big step. And as much as we need to praise Scholz and Merkel on the one hand and Macron on the other, it must of course be said that the agreement was an agreement between the governments. Parliamentarians would like it if parliaments were even more involved in this. In this respect, this Franco-German cooperation is incredibly important, but of course, when push comes to shove, in recent years – and I say this deliberately provocatively – it has been more intergovernmental than genuine European parliamentary cooperation. So, we must tackle this in Berlin, where most colleagues are not so keen on changing anything

Is the Franco-German engine of European integration restarting? Or do differences in areas such as energy policy show that a united approach to EU reform is impossible? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Bundesregierung/Bergmann
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.



15 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Paul

    Again ???? ….when did they stop trying…..economically Germany is risking to be a busted flush…Macron’s dreams of a more federal eu state with self sufficiency in power generation, defense etc will hit the buffers & a move towards majority voting with potentially “associated membershio” will alienate eastern Europe who are already very suspicious.
    As we’ve seen with the recent egs of financial crash, pandemic & now war in Europe….events will always overtake plans & its unclear wherher the EU has the structures or the political will to respond.

  2. avatar
    Apolinaras

    In recent circumstances words “leadership”, “France” and “Germany” in one sentence at best are laughable.

  3. avatar
    Michael

    I would prefer to see the word “integration” off the table but focus on better cooperation. As for my country, Britain, it would be nice to see a much more positive approach to political and economic cooperation with the EU but I don’t see much hope for as long as Boris Johnson is in power.

    • avatar
      JT HK

      Cannot agree more. Boris Johnson appeared to have turned himself to the assistant of the American president Joe Biden and wasting his time and effort everywhere except in his own country. Spend more time to see how to serve the British people for post-Covid social and economic recovery.

    • avatar
      Michael

      Thanks

  4. avatar
    JT HK

    If Macron and Olaf Scholz are following the led of non-EU countries the US and the UK, how can they lead Europe again?

  5. avatar
    JT HK

    Macron’s top priority to secure Europe peace and prosperity with like minded leaders. European state abandoned its neutrality and forming military alliance with non-EU members with the intention to contain Russia would drag EU military conflict like Ukraine. These states are potential ground of military conflict with non-EU states and should not be accepted into the EU family. The damage of over-expansion is increasingly conspicuous.

    • avatar
      Žygis

      who cares. As long as we wont change russia to democratic, we will have problems in europe. The best time to do it is NOW

    • avatar
      JT HK

      If democracy means putting US proxy to rule, only brain-dead would still talking about democracy. Democracy of the West has reduced to election, all other elements such as liberty, equality, fraternity and legality have been sacrificed by power struggle of political parties and politicians. Can you not see Putin has over 80% of support? The Chinese Community Party Government has won over 90% of trust of the 1.4 billion Chinese by referring to the Edelman Trust Barometer. When China has announced to have eliminated poverty of the country in early 2022, when China has stopped taxing the rural people as early as in 2006, when China’s economic size has grown from $30.55 billion in 1952 to $17,728.01 billion in 2021, we need to rethink over what is really mean by democracy and who is more democratic.

    • avatar
      JT HK

      The more stupid people trying to pretend to be democrats, the more damage they would be doing to democracy, the more problems they are creating for the people, the subject they should be serving.

    • avatar
      Žygis

      what barometer? Do you even understand what you write? Russian troll

    • avatar
      JT HK

      What do you mean by democratic? Who is to qualify this? It is the people of the country and its constitution that can judge, not outsiders.

  6. avatar
    Крис

    Yes. But it won’t bring anything good to the Europeans. These two are not De Gaulle and Adenauer.

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