Macron and Scholz enjoy ‘friendly’ lunch after tensions between France and Germany

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for lunch on Wednesday, with both sides saying they made progress towards easing differences on energy and defence dogging the European Union's vital double act.

Macron and Scholz enjoy 'friendly' lunch after tensions between France and Germany
France's President Emmanuel Macron hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for lunch in Paris on Wednesday. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The two leaders were “of one mind on the major directions” of policy, a German diplomatic source said after the meeting, while a source in the French presidency called it “very constructive”.

“Today was a very good and important conversation on European energy supply, rising prices and joint arms projects,” Scholz tweeted.

“Germany and France stand close together and are tackling challenges jointly”.

Macron and Scholz were at pains to put on a show of friendliness as Scholz climbed out of his black Mercedes on arrival, with both smiling and shaking hands.

The pair spoke for around an hour longer than planned, including a one-on-one session without advisers.

The German source said they discussed issues including “European energy policy, national energy policies, economic development, defence, space and foreign policy”.

Meanwhile the French presidency said the talks were “in a spirit of very close cooperation for the medium- and long-term”.

But Macron and Scholz did not appear before journalists to announce any joint decisions or take questions.

Recent weeks had seen growing signs of discord between Berlin and Paris, under pressure from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its knock-on effects especially on energy markets.

Berlin’s move to spend up to €200 billion subsidising soaring gas prices and refusal to consider an EU-wide energy price cap nettled Paris and other European capitals, who fear the effect on their energy costs.

On defence, France is rattled by German plans for a shared missile shield with other NATO nations using American equipment, while longer-term projects to jointly develop new fighter jets and tanks appear stalled.

A big-spending “new era” of German defence policy announced by Scholz following the Russian attack has not translated into major contracts within Europe, especially for French firms as Macron hoped.

Wednesday’s meeting came instead of a postponed joint cabinet meeting between Paris and Berlin, which would have been Scholz’s first as chancellor.

So far, the German leader – in office for less than a year – has not developed the same warmth with Macron as his predecessor Angela Merkel, who “texted every day”, one French diplomatic source said ahead of the talks.

Strained ties between the EU’s two largest and most populous economies – in the past often the brokers of compromise among the bloc’s 27 members – have come at exactly the wrong time.

Russia’s invasion and the resulting disruption to the energy system have coincided with rising tensions between China and the West, as well as fears that more isolationist forces could return to power in Washington.

Berlin and Paris also differ on how to make the EU more agile faced with the new challenges, and how quickly to admit new members.

Macron warned that “both of us, together with the EU as a whole, are confronted with one of the biggest, furthest-reaching crises ever experienced by Europe,” with “a lot of work ahead,” the German diplomatic source said.

“Agreement between France and Germany is not sufficient, because everyone else has to agree, but it is necessary,” said Stephane Dion, Canadian ambassador to France and former envoy to Germany.

“They remain the motor of Europe. For Europe to work, that motor has to work,” he added.

France’s Europe minister Laurence Boone told the Senate Wednesday that the two countries should aim to resolve their differences “by the 60th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty” on January 22nd.

Signed by post-war leaders Charles De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, the pact forms the foundations of French-German cooperation.

For now the two sides have agreed to set up “working groups… that will have the two governments working closely together towards the next steps in the coming days,” the Elysée said.

The groups cover topics including defence and security, energy and innovation, the German source said.

Macron and Scholz also agreed to talk “before and after” the German leader’s upcoming visit to China and the French president’s visit to the US, the German source said.

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King Charles to address French Senate after urging stronger France-UK ties

King Charles III on Thursday follows in his mother Queen Elizabeth II's footsteps by addressing lawmakers in the French upper chamber of parliament on the second day of a visit that has seen him urge stronger ties between the countries.

King Charles to address French Senate after urging stronger France-UK ties

At a lavish state banquet late Wednesday, Charles issued a call for France and the UK to reinvigorate their relations, in comments echoed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

It is “incumbent upon us all to reinvigorate our friendship to ensure it is fit for the challenge of this, the 21st century,” Charles said in a toast.

Macron added that “despite Brexit… I know, your majesty, that we will continue to write part of the future of our continent together, to meet the challenges and to serve the causes we have in common”.

“Our relations have of course not always been entirely straightforward,” Charles said, in a speech in both English and accented but clearly-spoken French that impressed his hosts.

READ MORE: VIDEO: How good are British royals at speaking French?

But he set out an optimistic vision of the Entente Cordiale, the pact between the two neighbours forged in 1904, calling it a “sustainable alliance”.

Packed schedule

Charles’ speech at the Senate, France’s upper house of parliament, is the diplomatic high point of a more informal day. The late queen addressed the Senate in 2004 but not in the chamber itself.

READ MORE: How do French Senate elections work?

He will then visit the northern Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis — home to the French national stadium used for the Rugby World Cup, and the Olympics next year — where he is expected to see residents and sports stars.

Also heading to the Ile de la Cite on the river Seine, Charles — a keen gardener who once admitted he talked to his plants — will tour a flower market named after Queen Elizabeth II on her last state visit in 2014.

From there, he will view renovation and reconstruction work at the nearby Notre-Dame Cathedral, which was partially destroyed by a devastating fire in 2019.

Nearly 1,000 people are working to restore the cathedral, that dates back to the 12th century and is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

Following the fire, Charles said in an emotional message to Macron that he was “utterly heartbroken”, calling Notre-Dame “one of the greatest architectural achievements of Western civilisation”.

The Paris leg of the state visit wraps up with a formal farewell from Macron at the Elysee Palace.

The visit, which was rescheduled from March due to mass protests against French pension reforms, also aims to showcase Charles’s stature as a statesman just over a year after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The original itinerary in Paris and the southwestern city of Bordeaux is largely unchanged, and is packed with ceremony and pomp in a country that abolished its monarchy in the 1789 revolution and executed its king.

READ MORE: ‘The French have a taste for princes’ – Why British royals are so popular in France

Tactile friends

On Wednesday, Macron and Charles were seen chatting amicably while driving down the Champs-Elysees for talks at the Elysee Palace.

After their talks, the pair walked the short distance to the residence of the British ambassador, pausing to shake hands with well wishers on the upscale Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore.

The French president is known to have a strong personal rapport with Charles, with both men known for their love of books.

Macron presented Charles with a book by the 20th-century French writer Romain Gary, while he received a special edition of Voltaire’s “Lettres sur les Anglais” (“Letters on the English”).