French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was in Berlin on Friday (25 November) to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in an effort to showcase their “very dense and very rich” bilateral relationship, in the words of Scholz, after weeks of tensions.
The meeting draws a busy week of high-level dialogues between Berlin and Paris to a close, amid rumours that the Franco-German Council of Ministers, initially planned on 19 October, was postponed due to major disagreements between both the two governments, including on soaring energy prices, nuclear and European defence matters.
“Now more than ever, the Franco-German tandem must be the driving force of European consensus”, Borne told journalists at a press conference on Friday (25 November). She added that both countries bear a “historical responsibility” to work together on key topics. These include energy, spatial, innovation and the European response to the US’s Inflation Reduction Act, which, Borne explained, “ought not distort transatlantic competition”.
“The harder the times we are going through, the more important the Franco-German partnership becomes”, Scholz said, describing the current relationship as “tight and rooted in trust”.
Minutes before the press conference, the leaders signed an Energy Solidarity Agreement to strengthen bilateral collaboration on gas and electricity supply, and emphasised “the important role that hydrogen would play to attain climate neutrality”, according to the official document, seen by EURACTIV France.
Of note, both countries agreed to sign a bilateral intergovernmental agreement to implement a solidarity mechanism for natural gas in the first quarter of 2023, or during the next Franco-German ministerial Council, planned in January. They are also expected to lead negotiations on an electricity risk management regional agreement.
The document also pens Germany’s commitment to “push back the closure of remaining [German] nuclear plants to mid-April 2023, to maximise electricity flows to France”.
Finally, the document makes clear both countries are committed to reducing their dependence on fossil fuel, and agree to “work closely at the European level” to implement future energy price-reduction measures.
A number of bilateral ministerial visits were organised throughout the week, and intended to present the Franco-German alliance in a positive light. French Foreign Affairs minister Catherine Colonna and her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock met on Monday on the sidelines of the third Ministerial conference for the Moldova Support Platform.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner and his counterpart Bruno Le Maire also met on Thursday, and agreed to “working jointly to reap the full potential of the EU growth capacities, thus increasing our economic resilience and reducing our carbon footprint”.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]