PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met in Paris with smiles and a handshake on Wednesday, but ignored questions on their faltering relationship as they headed into the Elysee Palace.
Scholz flew into the French capital for a hastily scheduled working lunch to find common ground after the French leader postponed a joint cabinet meeting last week over what sources said were differences, including over energy policy and defence.
After the talks, Scholz said the two leaders had a “very good and important conversation” that covered European energy supplies, rising prices and joint defence projects.
“Germany and France stand close together and are tackling challenges together,” he said in a tweet.
Moments before Scholz’s arrival, French government spokesman Olivier Veran had downplayed any rifts, saying the Franco-German couple had always been able to overcome difficulties that arose from time to time.
“Today’s meeting reflects that this friendship remains alive,” Veran said.
But the number of issues on which France and Germany – the EU’s two richest and most influential members – are at odds over is growing, from the bloc’s defence strategy to its response to the energy crisis, relations with China and even fiscal policy.
The difficulties come as the EU struggles to reach an agreement on whether to cap gas prices in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
It is also impacting Europe’s plans to build its next generation of fighter jets, gas pipeline projects across the EU and German plans to let China invest in its ports.
Macron’s decision last week to postpone a joint cabinet meeting underlined the French president’s frustration. Berlin blamed logistical difficulties and played down the rift.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Michel Rose; additional reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by William Maclean, Richard Lough and Philippa Fletcher)
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 26, 2022. Ronny Hartmann/BPA/Handout via REUTERS