Nothing is more serious for the future of France than what is happening with Germany at the moment. Nothing is more serious for Germany than what is happening with France at the moment.
This is not a personal dispute, nor even a difference of appreciation of the same issue, that of access to energy. It is a profound difference in long-term strategic interests.
For France, which has nuclear weapons, the question of the ultimate defence of its territory does not arise. And the question of its access to energy is less extreme than for others, because of the formidable efforts of previous generations to give the country a real civilian nuclear power. But the country’s competitiveness is too weak to allow it to survive alone in an ultra-competitive world: France absolutely needs the Euro not to sink into the death spiral that it has experienced in the past, that Argentina is experiencing today, and that has just threatened Great Britain. So it has strategic sovereignty but not economic sovereignty. And today, it is worried: it no longer has energy autonomy; its army is very weak; it feels that in the long term, it is lost. For Europe, which does not want to make its sovereignty dependent on the goodwill of a dominating ally, there is no other future than an integrated and strategically autonomous Europe. This is what Paris has just proposed again.
For Germany, whose competitiveness remains exceptional, the question of economic power did not arise, as long as it could export its cars and machine tools to China and import its energy from Russia. However, for its defence, it can only rely on the United States. It has economic sovereignty, not strategic sovereignty. And today, it is worried: it no longer has access to Russian energy; and the Chinese market is closing to its products; it feels that in the long run, it is lost. And for it, which cannot count on France’s unconditional support to defend its territorial integrity, there is no other future than to throw itself even more into the arms of the Americans. This is what Berlin has just undertaken, by planning to acquire American missile protection, without consulting France.
This divergence in the fundamental interests of the two nations is not new. It has always been present in all discussions between the French and German leaders. Moreover, these two countries have never succeeded in integrating culturally, demographically and socially: these two nations still know each other very badly.
What has prevented these differences from becoming sources of rupture for sixty years is that the politicians of these two countries had, in their flesh, the mark of what a Franco-German rupture had led to: three wars in a century. Three wars that were increasingly abominable. And they knew how to make the necessary concessions to ensure that it never happened again. They did not forget the lessons of their lives, so well summed up by François Mitterrand in his last speech to the European Parliament: “nationalism is war.
Today, the leaders of these two countries do not have the same past. Neither of them experienced the misfortunes, or even the consequences of the misfortunes, of the Second World War at first hand. Many of them believe that peace between our two nations is a guaranteed fact for centuries to come. And that they can happily go their separate ways without risking anything essential.
This is dramatically wrong. If we do not return to the path of progress in European integration as soon as possible, by making concessions to each other, the whole construction of the last sixty years will collapse.
Very precisely: if we do not build a European army, the European Central Bank will be called into question. A new Franco-German war will become possible again, before the end of this century.
We can count on our enemies, or our competitors, in Washington, London, Moscow and Beijing, to blow on these embers.
Image : François Mitterrand et Helmut Kohl le 22 septembre 1984 © Maxppp – Wolfgang Eilmes