During a lunch at the Elysee Palace, the two leaders aim to “strengthen Franco-German cooperation” and to respond to common challenges in a “united and united manner”, summed up the French presidency on Tuesday.

An ambition that poorly masks the sometimes gaping differences between the first two European powers and which led to the postponement for several weeks of a Franco-German council of ministers, the first of Olaf Scholz, scheduled for the same day near Paris.

The arrival of the Chancellor at 12:00 p.m. and lunch at 12:35 p.m. will not give rise to any declaration, neither before nor after, according to the program broadcast Tuesday evening by the Elysée.

On the strategy to adopt in the face of soaring energy prices, nuclear power, European armament, nothing seems to be going well between Paris and Berlin. Something to worry about in Europe, where the Franco-German engine remains a major driving force.

“The Franco-German couple diverges, it is therefore paralyzed”, is alarmed the former French Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin.

“We cannot afford at this moment in history not to have a united and strong Europe. It starts with a fruitful Franco-German dialogue,” he warned on France Inter radio on Friday.

Disputes – notably on several common industrial projects, from the combat aircraft to the tank of the future – have been exacerbated since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

– “A marriage of necessity” –

Germany, among the most affected because of its dependence on Russian gas, has undertaken “a change of model whose destabilizing nature should not be underestimated”, analyzes Emmanuel Macron.

Chancellor Scholz announced an aid plan of 200 billion to individuals and businesses in the face of soaring prices, in particular of gas after the cuts in deliveries imposed by Russia.

This plan, rolled out without consultation with its European partners, has caused great misunderstanding and fears of distortion of competition in Europe.

After decades of underinvestment, Germany has also made a 180 degree turn in defense in order to make its army “the best equipped force in Europe”.

Again without necessarily working to strengthen the European strategic autonomy advocated by Paris and even less to that of Franco-German military-industrial cooperation.

Berlin is thus promoting a project for a European anti-missile shield, notably with an Israeli component, competing with that of Paris and Rome.

For many observers, this breakdown is inherent in any relationship where European ambitions and national interests intertwine, but not necessarily prohibitive.

“The reality is that it’s a marriage of necessity, underlines a French diplomatic source. “It’s not a fundamental crisis, it’s a bottom in the relationship,” she adds.

– “Coordinate efforts” –

“Macron Merkel, they exchanged text messages every day, and there, I don’t think they talk to each other every day,” she notes again.

On Europe, the two leaders have “a lot of convergence”, even if the Chancellor said little about France in his speech in Prague on the European Union at the end of August, it is pointed out in Paris.

Olaf Scholz then pledged to support an enlargement of the European Union towards the East and an EU of “30 or 36 members”, a much more proactive approach than that of France.

But he also pleaded, like Paris, for the passage to the qualified majority on a certain number of European decisions, from foreign policy to taxation.

In Berlin, we prefer to relativize. “France is our closest ally. In recent days there has been a lot of speculation, but I think a lot of things have been made up from scratch,” said a German government spokesperson.

In Brussels too, we want to believe it too. “I have confidence in the determination of both the French President and the German Chancellor” to “work together”, assures the President of the European Council Charles Michel.