Only Britain can save France from German domination

Are Great Britain and France on the verge of a new Entente Cordiale? France is reported to be the destination of King Charles’ first state visit, and in New York this week, Liz Truss and Emmanuel Macron took a break from the United Nations General Assembly for 30 minutes of “constructive” talks. “.

Many in France yearn for a closer relationship with Britain and, at the same time, a gradual decoupling with Germany.

I wrote in April last year about growing French skepticism towards Germany; how, in the words of a news magazine, France has been for decades “cheated” economically by its neighbor to the east.

Few politicians pointed this out. One exception, Marine Le Pen, a longtime critic of Germany, said in 2021 that if she ever became president she would seek a ‘divorce’ from the Franco-German couple in favor of establishing a closer relationship with Great Britain.

His is no longer an isolated voice as the energy crisis has caught on with French skepticism.

Twelve months ago, the European think tank, the Jacques Delors Institute, published a policy paper praising Germany’s energy strategy for energywende (energy rectification). The document concluded that by rejecting nuclear energy, “Germany is thus successfully completing the ‘energy turnaround’ begun more than 20 years ago.”

Anyone who dared to challenge this orthodoxy was mocked, as Donald Trump was at the United Nations General Assembly in 2018 when he warned the Germans that they were making a big mistake by becoming “totally dependent on Russian energy”. As the Washington Post reported, the reaction among most delegates was one of jubilation and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas “could be seen smiling alongside his colleagues”.

Last week, Olivier Marleix, the leader of the center-right Republicans in the National Assembly, wrote an op-ed in Le Figaro who trashed Germany’s energy policy and also blamed Emmanuel Macron for accepting it.

Marleix expressed anger at EU President Ursula von der Leyden’s proposal earlier this month to introduce a price cap for countries that produce renewable, hydroelectric and nuclear energy, and whose costs output are lower than those of coal and gas-fired power plants. This revenue levy would subsidize member states that have to buy gas to generate electricity, such as Germany. “Taxing good performers to give back to bad performers is a startling idea,” a sardonic Marleix remarked.

Taking an opposing position to that of the Jacques Delors Institute, Marleix said that Germany had only itself to blame because, for many years, it had made a series of “bad choices regarding its energy strategy.

Marleix is ​​a protege of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, a supporter of nuclear energy during his tenure. In September 2007, shortly after being elected president, Sarkozy met Angela Merkel in Berlin where he advised the chancellor not to abandon German nuclear power. “We cannot remain in Europe in a situation where, in a century, there will be no more gas, where in 30 or 40 years, there will be no more oil”, declared Sarkozy. “No one can imagine that wind turbines will be used to power all of Europe.”

Sarkozy wanted France and Germany to “have energy ambitions in the same direction,” but his advances were rebuffed by Merkel. Indeed, four years later, the chancellor accelerated the phasing out of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors, while at the same time launching a campaign to pressure France to follow suit.

This strategy was laid bare in a recent book published by Bernard Accoyer, a former Republican deputy who served as president of the National Assembly under Sarkozy. Subtitled “The attempt to scuttle the French nuclear industry”, the book describes how France’s nuclear energy program, launched in 1974 under President Georges Pompidou, gave it not only cheap electricity for households and businesses, but a competitive advantage over Germany.

This was felt by Merkel who – with the support of Brussels and the French Greens – conspired to introduce legislation to reduce EDF’s dominance in the European electricity market by forcing it to sell a quarter of its production of nuclear electricity to its competitors at rock bottom prices. “Everyone knows that Germany cultivates the art of using European institutions to increase its influence and develop its efficiency”, wrote Accoyer.

If they were able to get away with it, it was thanks to the servility of Sarkozy’s successors, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron, “who strive to imitate a German energy strategy that serves Berlin’s interests but harms ours. “.

Macron thinks the price cap proposal is a good idea. “We will show solidarity [with Germany] by strengthening our gas and electricity exchanges,” he tweeted on September 5. “We will defend the establishment of a European mechanism which will involve energy producers whose production costs are well below the market price.

Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have reached an agreement that from next month France will send 5% of its gas reserves to Germany during the winter and in return they will receive electricity from their neighbor. France shouldn’t need electricity from Germany but 32 of its 56 nuclear reactors aren’t working, and one of its main plants, Fessenheim, was shut down by Macron in 2020 with Germany’s encouragement . Then-German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the shutdown would make Germany “safer”, and she promised to continue to pressure France to phase out all its reactors , claiming that “nuclear energy is not a climate saviour”.

The war in Ukraine revealed other cracks in the Franco-German relationship. In June, economist Bruno Alomar and Republican senator Cédric Perrin wrote an op-ed in The world in which they accused Germany of acting unilaterally by announcing its commitment to increase defense spending by 100 billion euros.

Not that this is the first time that Germany has taken a decision without consulting its EU partners, the authors note, citing as other recent examples the decision to phase out nuclear energy and its migration policy in 2015 which “repelled a decisive fringe of the British population”. towards Brexit.

Like Marine Le Pen, Alomar and Perrin concluded that the Franco-German couple has had its day and that it is time for France to turn to other European partners. By which they mean Britain.

It is no longer perfidious Albion that the French distrust, but perfidious Germany.

James R. Rhodes