France Needs New Partners to Advance European Strategic Autonomy

France Needs New Partners to Advance European Strategic Autonomy
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and French President Emmanuel Macron wave to journalists before their talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Aug. 29, 2022 (AP photo by Aurelien Morissard).

Throughout the history of the European Union, reconciliation between France and Germany has been viewed as central to the progress of European integration. The close relationship that developed by the late 1950s was described by commentators as Europe’s “Franco-German engine.” And keeping it on course was deemed essential to the EU’s survival, from disputes over the Common Agricultural Policy in the 1960s to the scramble to save the euro in the 2010s.

Yet the European project has never just been about the willingness of the French and Germans to set aside their differences. Other states, like Italy and the Netherlands, played a crucial role in establishing institutions such as the European Commission and European Parliament that have long been at the heart of how the EU is governed. And with each round of EU expansion, countries like Spain and Finland brought their own political outlook into the process, while the accession of the ex-communist states, like Poland and Romania, after the end of the Cold War bolstered the EU’s global influence.

For another important reason, fixating on the Franco-German engine has always been a flawed model through which to understand the weaknesses and strengths of the EU. While Germany’s economic power means that it is central to monetary and industrial policy, the scope of European integration now means the EU holds sway in a much wider range of issues. At a time when Europe faces huge security challenges after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, assuming that greater European integration is only possible when Berlin and Paris have a shared agenda may prove downright misleading.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.