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“The last few months have called us to order”

The cross : Sixty years after the signing of the Élysée Treaty sanctifying friendship on both sides of the Rhine, is the Franco-German couple still as structuring for German politics?

Anna Lührmann: Yes, and I would even say that it has become even more so over the years because our cooperation is very intense on all current issues. We do not have such close relations with any other country in the world.

Germany is turning a lot towards the countries of Eastern Europe… Has Europe’s center of gravity shifted?

AL: I will not tell. The basic principle of the European Union is to find consensus between Member States. This is where we see the importance of the Franco-German engine. We sometimes have different perspectives, but we manage to build a basis for obtaining common answers within the EU.

It is true that with the aggression of Ukraine, we have come closer to the analysis that other Eastern European countries such as Poland and the Baltic countries have been doing for a long time. The topic of enlargement to the Western Balkans has also become more important. But cooperation with France remains central, particularly in Ukraine.

In these celebrations of the Élysée Treaty, should we expect concrete projects beyond the symbolic?

AL: First, we celebrate reconciliation. We have to look at what we have achieved which is amazing. Our shared history is the foundation of our relationship. There will also be a lot of talk about the present. Each German minister works intensively with his French counterpart. Their work will be taken over by the Franco-German Council of Ministers.

We are also going to talk a lot about themes for the future, in particular with the launch of a Franco-German train ticket for young people to encourage travel between the two countries. We are also going to create a network of exchanges and meetings to strengthen personal links between young people, the Generation Europe-young talents network. We are very satisfied with the reception that has been given to us in this regard. We received over 200 applications from young people. Between symbolic and concrete, we therefore work on this triptych: past, present and future.

The past few months have seen many differences of opinion between Berlin and Paris. How did you prepare for this January 22 deadline?

AL: This period was less difficult than reported by the press. The Franco-German Council of Ministers scheduled for October has been postponed, yes, but since then half of the German government has visited Paris at least once.

At the same time, we received many visits from our French friends. On some of the issues where we didn’t find agreement before, we do now. Everyone pulled together.

Has the war in Ukraine temporarily made us forget the importance of the Franco-German couple?

AL: No, quite the contrary! Since February 24, 2022, Europe has come much closer. We are working very closely with France on the Ukrainian file. It is true that there is always a danger that a relationship of sixty years becomes routine. The last few months have called us to order.

In this context, isn’t this the time for major joint initiatives?

AL: There will be some ! Everyone is always looking for one or two flagship projects, but in reality, what characterizes us is our close collaboration on a daily basis.

In terms of climate policy, how to find a consensus when Paris and Berlin have very different positions?

AL: On the contrary, on the climate, we are pursuing the same objectives, and our close cooperation was decisive, for example during the last COP in Egypt. In terms of transport too, closely linked to that of the climate, we have joint projects, such as the night train line between Berlin and Paris, which should see the light of day at the end of the year.

With regard to energy, we have known for a long time that we have different positions on nuclear. We accept it. Our current priority is to work more closely on a response to the Inflation Reduction Act, this United States plan which aims to promote the ecological transition of the economy in the United States. We already have a common position taken by our respective ministers of the economy. It’s a good starting point.

France is in favor of a new European fund to finance this response. Is it a taboo in Berlin?

AL: There are still unused European funds, such as under the Next Generation EU ($750 billion recovery plan adopted in 2020, editor’s note) and the European budget, to finance these investments in the ecological transition.

In terms of defence, Germany seems more than ever to link its security policy to the United States. Why ?

AL: With France, we share the idea of ​​strengthening a European defense and security policy, in collaboration with the Americans. We are working together on various armament projects, such as the Scaf, the European aircraft of the future, on which we are making progress. It is true that France and Germany have quite a different history when it comes to NATO.

We also have sometimes divergent industrial interests. This year, we placed orders for American F35 combat aircraft. They were available more quickly than joint European projects. There, we must do better in Europe.

You belong to the ecologist party, pro-European. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved in one year in power?

AL: The world today is very different from the one we found ourselves in when we drafted the coalition agreement at the end of 2021. Russian aggression naturally absorbs us. We will only be able to implement the European objectives of our coalition agreement if the other Member States support us. On the other hand, we responded in a very united and decisive manner at European level to Russian aggression. I would not have imagined this a year ago.

Source : BBN WORLD NEWS

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