Smiles as Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz aim to mend rift but no decisions

Several differences have spilt into the open in recent weeks, including the handling of the winter energy crunch

French President Emmanuel Macron meets German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Elysee Palace. Getty Images
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Chancellor Olaf Scholz has played down tension between Germany and France — Europe's vital double act — after meeting French President Emmanuel Macron.

Both sides said they had made progress towards easing differences on energy and defence that have caused reported friction between the European Union's two largest economies.

“That was a very good and important discussion today — on European energy supply, rising prices and joint armament projects,” Mr Scholz wrote on Twitter. “Germany and France are standing close together and tackling the challenges together.”

Stephane Dion, the Canadian ambassador to France and former envoy to Germany, explained: “They remain the motor of Europe. For Europe to work, that motor has to work.”

Several differences have spilt into the open in recent weeks, including the handling of the winter energy crunch.

Mr Macron and Mr Scholz were at pains to give an air of friendliness as the German chancellor climbed out of his car on arrival, with both leaders smiling and shaking hands.

The pair spoke for about an hour longer than planned, including a one-on-one session without advisers.

The talks were held “in a spirit of very close cooperation for the medium- and long-term”, the French presidency said, but there was no press conference and they did not make any joint decisions.

The meeting was held instead of a postponed joint Cabinet meeting between Paris and Berlin, which would have been Mr Scholz's first as chancellor.

So far, the German leader, in office for less than a year, has not developed the same warm relationship with Paris as his predecessor Angela Merkel, who “texted every day”, one French diplomatic source said before the talks.

Strained ties between the EU's two largest and most populous economies — in the past often the brokers of compromise among the bloc's 27 members — have come at exactly the wrong time.

Germany has openly blamed France's reduced electricity exports for worsening the energy squeeze at home, forcing ministers in Berlin to postpone its long-planned exit from nuclear power.

France, in turn, was among the countries to react coolly to Germany's vast €200 billion ($194.5bn) bailout package, rescuing its economy in a way most EU countries could never afford.

French government spokesman Olivier Veran said Mr Scholz’s visit showed both countries’ ability “sometimes to be able to get over difficulties … when the priorities of one country do not necessarily converge with the priorities of the other”.

“The strength of the French-German couple is to always be able to get along together and move Europe forward,” he added.

Updated: October 26, 2022, 5:51 PM