How important is the Franco-German relationship for Europe?

After 16 years at the head of Germany, Angela Merkel will have known four French presidents. She was the stability of the Franco-German partnership and now a new balance will have to be found for this relationship. However, a change of personalities should not shake the foundation of the ties between Paris and Berlin.

Pierre Vimont, Researcher at Carnegie Europe, and a former French diplomat said personalities are key but the bond between both countries remains important.

“There will inevitably be a change in personality, and personalities play a role in the Franco-German relationship. But beyond the substance of things, the Franco-German relationship will remain important in my opinion. It remains an essential element and foundation of the European project.

The implementation of a new duo will depend very much on the electoral deadlines. The negotiations to form a new coalition government in Germany could take several weeks, even months. This period could serve the French president well, but only in the short term.

Eric Maurice, head of the Brussels office of the Robert Schuman Foundation said “If we look at it from Emmanuel Macron’s point of view, the objective is obviously to be re-elected in May, and so this would put Emmanuel Macron in the position of having more experience, compared to the new chancellor who would probably only arrive during the winter.”

“So for France, there would be, perhaps, not a superiority but a political anteriority on European issues, especially as France will hold the presidency of the EU Council from January to June,” added Eric Maurice.

However, the success of a Franco-German bond cannot be predicted by its political colours. It is above all a question of political will.

“When you look at the history of Franco-German ties, political alignment is not necessary, said Eric Maurice.

“There has always been a culture of dialogue and so it is this personal issue that allows us to overcome the political, institutional and cultural differences between the two countries.”

Faced with challenges such as the rise of China, the attitude to be taken towards Russia, and the rebuilding of the transatlantic relationship, Paris and Berlin must work together very quickly.

Pierre Vimont believes all German candidates understand the importance of the relationship between the two countries.

“The Franco-German partnership must continue to work well together. And my feeling, listening to the various chancellor candidates in Berlin, is that they all stress the importance of the Franco-German bond.”

The next Franco-German couple will together have to convince, its 25 EU partners in order to be able to advance the European project.

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