November 19, 2019
Not the time to bet against the Franco-German relationship
There is no place on earth where the Franco-German relationship is less understood than in London. The UK is not, and never has been, an arbiter of diverging Franco-German interests. Brexit will not change it in one direction or the other. And you will always find French and German officials who can’t stand each other. What has pulled the two countries together since the 1950s are joint interests.
Commentators have declared the relationship dead time and again because they have not seen it in action. There are long periods during which it was dormant - for example during the era of Willy Brand and Georges Pompidou, the early period of Jacques Chirac, and now the late period of Angela Merkel. It has a punctuated history.
If the grand coalition - and Merkel - are replaced in 2021, or earlier, there is a chance of a reconnection in that relationship. This would be on the basis of more German investments to meet climate targets and defence spending commitments. We recently noted convergence on defence spending in comments by Emmanuel Macron and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. France and Germany have traditionally different perspectives on Nato, but the future of Nato is not decided by either country. The US will determine the extent to which Nato is effective. The fact that AKK and Macron used different adjectives to describe NATO is also immaterial. What matters more is that they both want to strengthen European defence, and that AKK is ready to invest political capital in this process.
Germany has partially softened its opposition to EU-wide deposit insurance. We also note that there is a debate in full swing on the German debt brake - see our separate story below. There is a long way to go until Germany accepts the institutional changes necessary for the eurozone to succeed in the long run. We make no predictions, but would caution against another premature dismissal of the Franco-German relationship.