VSt is a paradox, both in terms of European history and current events. Germany and France, as the anniversary of the end of the Second World War is celebrated, which also marks the beginning of their reconciliation, seem relatively in the background about Russian aggression in Ukraine. Unlike the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, or the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, neither Chancellor Olaf Scholz nor Emmanuel Macron made the trip to kyiv. This apparent reserve is striking if we compare it to the engagement that was that of Angela Merkel and François Hollande in 2015, at the start of the Donbass war.
It is as if the two countries had been taken on the wrong foot by a conflict of which they had not even foreseen the outbreak, even less the extent and the consequences. Berlin saw this news as a brutal questioning of its economic model, its energy choices, its policy of openness towards Vladimir Putin and its pacifism.
In Paris, the conflict directly calls into question Emmanuel Macron’s bet to reach out to the Russian president, an approach intended to try to anchor Russia in Europe. Both occupied in managing the economic, energy and social consequences of the war, as well as the challenge it brutally poses in terms of defence, the German and French leaders do not exercise, on this file, the leadership that one could expect from them.
However, six months ago, the contract of the “traffic light” coalition of Olaf Scholz, which combines the social democrats, the ecologists and the liberals, displayed unprecedented convergences with Paris. By making European integration a priority, by taking up the concept of “strategic autonomy” for Europe, by recognizing the need for a common industrial policy, Germany finally seemed to respond positively to the speech of the Sorbonne of M Macron that Angela Merkel, in 2017, left unanswered.
But, since this promising introduction, it is not easy to grasp what Mr. Scholz wants and thinks. The display of a clear European ambition in terms of sanctions, aid to Ukraine and a break with Russian sources of energy supply is matched by the Chancellor’s great discretion. The latter is, it is true, faced with a series of fundamental challenges, including in relation to Germany’s relationship with the war and with globalization. Choices he has begun to make, in particular by accepting the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, but which do not simplify the management of a coalition government dedicated to compromise.
However, the situation in this country only makes progress towards a stronger, more autonomous Europe more necessary than ever. In the context of an unprecedented crisis, which involves not only the values but the security of the European Union, Paris and Berlin have, as often, a driving role to play. The expected adoption in early June of a special fund of 100 billion euros for the German army, announced by Mr. Scholz three days after the start of the conflict, should be the opportunity for Germany to emerge from its hesitations, by undertaking to devote a substantial part of it to European defense projects. In this area, as in that of economic recovery, or the mode of decision-making in the Union, the time has come to take a series of strong actions.
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