France, Germany government meeting postponed after policy cracks emerge

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Germany and France postponed a meeting set for next week between their governments until January as Berlin said that “more time” was necessary to find common ground on a slew of issues.

The delay to the regular meeting hosted alternately by either cabinet exposed a growing rift between the two EU powers, and comes as Europe struggles to cope with an energy and cost-of-living crisis unleashed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit would not be drawn on the topics that the governments were unable to agree on.

But he acknowledged that “there are a number of different issues that we are dealing with at the moment... on which we have not yet reached a unified position.”

Both sides therefore decided it was “sensible” to postpone the talks originally to be hosted by France to January.

Scholz will nevertheless hold bilateral talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the EU summit starting Thursday, Hebestreit said, adding that the pair may also meet next Wednesday in Paris.

France and Germany have often tried to present a united front in a myriad of crises, but over the last weeks, criticisms have spilled out into the open on issues ranging from energy to defense.

After Scholz’s government announced a 200-billion euro ($198-billion) support scheme to protect its businesses and consumers from runaway energy prices, Macron has warned the program risked leading to “distortions” in the bloc.

Berlin has also been accused of blocking at the EU level a cap on gas prices which it fears would remove an incentive for consumers to save energy, thereby worsening the situation.

France, however, which is suffering an electricity shortage because several of its nuclear power plants are out of service, has been pushing for the cap.

Berlin was meanwhile unhappy with Paris over a lack of support for its bid to revive the so-called Midcat gas project for pipelines linking Portugal, Spain, through France to Germany.

On military issues, Germany’s recent success in rallying 14 NATO members to join its air shield project has irked France which is eyeing a separate plan.

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