La Croix: Sixty years after the signing of the Élysée Treaty, how important are Franco-German relations for Berlin?
Wolfgang Ischinger: They remain an indispensable key element of Germany’s foreign policy and European policy. Of course, we are no longer in the world of François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl who, with a joint letter, could set the tone for the decisions of the European Council. The European Union has become more complex. Franco-German initiatives alone are no longer enough, but without Franco-German leadership Europe will not move forward.
In which areas should Paris and Berlin take new joint initiatives?
W. I. : I hope for Franco-German impetus in three areas. Projects such as the future jointly designed combat aircraft must be a priority. We cannot leave them to government departments or even to industry alone. They will only move forward if the Élysée and the chancellery make it their personal business.
The second point concerns Ukraine. I hope the two countries will continue to adopt a common line. Chancellor Merkel and then French President Hollande founded what is known as the Normandy Format nine years ago to find a solution to the Ukrainian conflict. It is the task of France and Germany to continue to play this role of leader, in the current context of war, within the European framework and in coordination with the American ally.
The third point concerns China. I would like France and Germany to agree on a European China policy, so that the whole of the EU speaks with one voice. Otherwise, we should not be surprised that China manages to put a spoke in the wheel between the Germans and the French, between the Europeans and the United States.
In terms of security policy, Germany seems more oriented towards the United States than towards France. Is it a problem ?
W. I. : In the coalition contract of the current German government, we find the following sentence: “We want to strengthen the strategic sovereignty of Europe. This is not exactly the same as the French objective of “strategic autonomy”, but it goes in the same direction.
The problem is that, in the current situation, we are very dependent on the United States. Where would Europe, France and Germany be if the United States had not massively invested in the military since February 24? They spend far more money on Ukraine than all EU members put together. It is therefore natural that they again play a leading role.
I fully understand that, in Paris, many think that it is up to us to play the role of leader, but the resources that we make available unfortunately do not allow it. Europe must make many more resources available for its sovereignty, its capacity for action in foreign policy, its possibilities in terms of defense policy. It is a mission for the future.
How does the tandem between Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz fit into the history of Franco-German couples?
W. I. : The personalities and dynamics are different each time. This was the case between Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand, between Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder, between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. Currently, we have an Olaf Scholz who depends on his parliamentary majority every day. The French president does not need a parliamentary majority for his foreign policy.
Moreover, Emmanuel Macron is an excellent communicator while Olaf Scholz is a Hanseatic, not very extroverted, who prefers to say nothing. These two very different natures have drifted apart a little during this first year. I am nevertheless certain that their collaboration will intensify and improve in the coming months.
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