Macron and Scholz show their unity in Ukraine

The conflict in Ukraine has strained relations between France and Germany in recent months. At least visually and until this Friday afternoon. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared before the press in the Berlin Chancellery with a smile that gave way to an exuberant handshake. So they wanted to stage a meeting in which Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also took part.

Scholz beamed. The meeting was a very important sign of unity, the Chancellor told reporters. “We stand closely and steadfastly on the side of Ukraine,” the French leader added: “We are united, determined and will do everything so that Russia does not win the war.” In case of doubt, Tusk assured that “the unpleasant rumors about disagreements are not true.” No questions from journalists were allowed. Nothing should tarnish the image of European unity.

Among other things, the three heads of state and government decided to immediately purchase more weapons for Ukraine on the world market. In addition, the production of military equipment is expanding and there is likely to be progress in long-range rocket artillery. At the EU level, for example, they want to use the profits from frozen Russian assets to buy more weapons and this Monday the defense ministers are to discuss the next steps in the Ramstein format. The meeting was a “very clear signal to Moscow,” said Scholz and made it clear: “We are not at war with Russia.”

According to the German press, politicians seem to have done their job well this time. In fact, the so-called Weimar Triangle could be exactly the right round of unity that the EU needs: Germany as an economic power, France as a nuclear power and member of the UN Security Council and Poland as a leading Eastern European state. 188 million people, more than 40% of the EU population, so that from now on decisions can be made quickly between these three politicians, which can then be extended to the rest of the Community.

On Thursday evening, Macron gave a prime-time television interview about the Ukraine war. “Those who exclude options do not choose peace, but defeat,” he said. An insinuation that many thought was directed at Scholz and with which the French president reiterated his defense of not ruling out the presence of NATO ground troops in Ukraine. “If the situation worsens, we must be prepared that Russia never achieves a victory,” Macron said, although he also assured that France, as a nuclear power, had a “special responsibility” to avoid verbal and real escalations and that his country would never go on the offensive.

Some words that could have been interpreted with some anger in Berlin in view of Scholz’s repetition of not sending the “Taurus” cruise missiles to Ukraine. In addition, the Bundestag voted again against the delivery of these missiles. On the contrary: the Chancellor has publicly and repeatedly called on other countries, including France, to make more financial commitments to Ukraine; which for many means a direct trip to Paris in a week full of mutual recriminations.

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Macron arrived in Berlin at midday to first speak with Scholz. Tusk later joined, just hours after the Polish ambassador to Germany, Dariusz Pawlos, called on Scholz to deliver the Taurus to Ukraine in an interview on German television. “We want Scholz to be courageous and look for a solution to provide sufficient systems and ammunition,” Pawlos defended himself in front of the cameras, expressing his conviction that the summit would send a signal of unity and solidarity with Ukraine. A few words following what Tusk wrote on the social network X on Friday morning and before the meeting with his French and German colleagues: “Real solidarity with Ukraine? Less words, more ammunition.

In France, Macron is under pressure. Fewer and fewer French people continue to defend their support for Ukraine. According to a recent study, the proportion who think Paris should maintain current levels of military aid has fallen by 9 percentage points since the summer and now stands at 43%. In addition, four fifths of respondents oppose the stationing of French troops on Ukrainian soil and fear that the war could spread beyond the country.

The meeting in Berlin may not have been decisive, but for some analysts it was the last opportunity for Scholz and Macron to coordinate before a few crucial months on Ukraine, the European Parliament elections or the appointment of a new NATO chief. “German-French relations have never been easy,” said German-French political scientist Sophie Pornschlegel on ARD television. “France often presents very ambitious visions that perhaps go too far, and Germany approaches everything more pragmatically, but never says no.” According to the German press, there is currently a lot of mistrust between countries and especially between decision-makers, which is why both Macron and Scholz tried to dispel this impression with this summit. “More than ever, our unity is our strength,” said Scholz. The experienced Tusk could also have played an important role in resolving disagreements between Germany and France.

Nevertheless, after weeks of discussions, the three heads of state and government achieved the desired image of unity and unity. “We will see each other again next week at the EU summit,” concluded Scholz. We can only hope that the old rifts between Germany and France will not be reopened by then.

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