France and Germany look to laugh off rift over energy crisis

Foreign ministers meet in Paris after cracks emerged on gas prices and nuclear power

Foreign ministers Catherine Colonna of France, left, and Annalena Baerbock of Germany, second left, met pupils at a school in Paris. AFP
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France and Germany sought to laugh off their differences on Monday after cracks appeared between the two countries on energy policy.

“You don’t always agree with your best friends,” German minister Annalena Baerbock told a group of schoolchildren in Paris.

She was received by French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on the sidelines of a summit on Moldova.

Ms Colonna said there was no need for a relaunch of Franco-German relations but called for “work on the issues, which is already taking place”.

It came after joint talks between French and German ministers were cancelled last month after officials struggled to bridge gaps.

It called into question the relationship often described as the “motor of Europe” since France and Germany put their differences aside to spearhead European integration after the Second World War.

Ms Colonna said on Monday that a new Franco-German summit was planned for January, celebrating 60 years since the Elysee Treaty that cemented their friendship.

She and Ms Baerbock met students studying for a joint Franco-German school certificate at a secondary school in Paris.

The French and German ministers took part in a Paris conference on support for Moldova. AP

Ms Baerbock’s early departure from a press conference to see Mr Macron was “bad news for you, but it’s wonderful news for Franco-German relations”, Ms Colonna joked to journalists.

France was one of several countries to raise eyebrows at Germany’s vast €200 billion ($205.2bn) bailout package for energy bills. Paris championed an EU-wide price cap that was seen with scepticism in Berlin.

Germany has meanwhile pointed the finger at problems in France’s electricity grid for worsening its own energy squeeze.

It forced Germany to delay the final switch-off of its nuclear power plants — another issue where it differs from fission-friendly France.

A further rift came to the surface over a proposed gas pipeline across the Pyrenees, which Germany supported but was blocked by France.

But Ms Baerbock said: “Of course there are areas where Germany and France have different positions … in energy policy, in some areas, but not in all areas.”

She said Germany and France had both spoken in favour of what she called drastic emissions cuts at the Cop27 summit in Egypt.

Updated: November 21, 2022, 4:39 PM