In his first 10 months since taking office, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been largely absent on the European stage, demonstrating a preference for focusing on domestic issues. The leadership void created by Scholz’s passive approach to continental affairs has now seeped into the Franco-German relationship, threatening to destabilize the central motor of European integration.
Yesterday, Scholz visited Paris, where he and French President Emmanuel Macron met over a working lunch in an attempt to patch up tensions in the bilateral relationship. Paris has grown frustrated with what it perceives to be the new German government’s lack of engagement in Europe, contrasting it unfavorably with that of Scholz’s predecessor, former Chancellor Angela Merkel. The tete-a-tete in the Fontainebleau Palace outside Paris didn’t appear to heal the rift, as the two leaders did not hold a joint press conference following their meeting, as is customary after a high-level bilateral event of this kind. In fact, the two sides didn’t even issue a joint statement, after conflicting reports about whether one would be released.
The lunch itself was a hastily organized replacement for an annual Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting that was set to take place this week before being postponed until January. Both sides blamed scheduling conflicts for the postponement, but the growing tensions in the relationship were likely a bigger factor in the decision.