France and Germany face a difficult path as the two leaders appear to remain at odds ahead of a crucial meeting as Europe faces tough choices about China and a looming energy crisis.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz went to Paris on Wednesday with a press, intent on meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, but the Macron camp said there was no press conference planned, Politico said.

The two leaders will now meet for a “business lunch,” which could now serve as a downgraded substitute for a demolished cabinet meeting. The move would serve as another indicator that relations between two of Europe’s largest economic powers are no longer what they used to be.

Sandra Weeser, a member of the German Free Democratic Party who also sits on the council of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly, said that “allegedly there has been a lack of contact and exchange between the respective new government teams” of each nation. Macron allegedly expressed displeasure with Scholz for not working to foster a better personal relationship like the one Macron had had with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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But Macron and Scholz clashed over a number of issues, including how to handle the looming energy crisis in Europe and China’s growing interest in Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the Elysee in Paris, October 26, 2022.
(Reuters / Sarah Meyssonnier)

Chantal Kopf, a member of the German Green Party and another member of the Franco-German Parliamentary Assembly, said she understood that French lawmakers wanted to coordinate “closely” responses to these issues.

Germany, however, has pursued what Weeser calls a “self-managed” stance on gas price brakes and the lack of support for “joint European defense technology projects”, but has also accused Paris of dragging its feet on new ones. pipeline projects.

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The two nations differed on how to deal with nuclear power, with Germany bent on closing its remaining nuclear power plants until the Russian invasion of Ukraine raised energy prices and forced German lawmakers to rethink their approach and order two of the last three plants to remain open.

In the meantime, France has embarked on the path of opening new nuclear power plants even before the invasion began.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron speak with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at an EU summit in Brussels, 23 June 2022.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron speak with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at an EU summit in Brussels, 23 June 2022.
(Photo AP / Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The two nations also diverge widely over how to handle China, with Germany approving the purchase of a 24.9% stake in the Port of Hamburg on Wednesday after Scholz approved the move. The approval of Cosco’s purchase in the port – down from 35% initially proposed – sparked immediate and “unprecedented” outcry within the government, Reuters reported.

The investment “disproportionately expands China’s strategic influence on German and European transport infrastructure, as well as Germany’s dependence on China,” according to the German foreign ministry, which has drawn up a document noting its repeated refusal.

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Macron last week questioned the deal, arguing that it made “essential infrastructure” vulnerable in Beijing and saying Europe remained “naive” about Chinese purchases “because we thought Europe was an open supermarket” .

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée, in Paris, on May 7, 2022.

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée, in Paris, on May 7, 2022.
(Gonzalo Fuentes / Piscina via AP)

Tension began to simmer last month when Macron and Scholz did not meet to commemorate the 9th anniversary of a famous speech by former French President Charles de Gaulle in the German city of Ludwigsburg. Each side presented conflicting accounts as to why the meeting did not take place.

And Scholz apparently snubbed French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne when he was unable to meet her in Berlin: The original meeting was abandoned due to Scholz’s positive COVID-19 result, but then canceled a subsequent video call because he claimed to feel too sick. However, he appeared on video later that day to hold a press conference to announce a € 200 billion energy aid package.

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French officials expressed great disappointment with Germany’s actions, particularly as they hadn’t learned of the package until Scholz announced it. “We got it from the press. It’s not over,” said a senior French official.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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