The cooperation between Germany and France, which forms the basis of the European Union (EU), has suffered a significant blow in the aftermath of the Russian-Ukrainian War that started on February 24, 2022. In particular, the two countries have significant disagreements over developments in Europe. Therefore, this situation prevents Brussels from displaying unity in the face of the challenges posed by the war. In other words, the joint action of Germany and France is crucial for shaping the EU’s policy. Because these two countries are the largest economies of the EU. Moreover, France is the leading member of the EU in the field of defense, while Germany is the leading member in the economic dimension.
However, in September 2022, the Berlin administration’s announcement of 200 billion euros in energy subsidies to the public and companies caused a great reaction from Paris. This is because Germany made this move without informing France in advance. Therefore, France thought that German companies would gain an unfair advantage in the EU market.
In this context, given the war conjuncture in Europe, France in a way accused Germany of betraying it due to its unilateral moves. Therefore, the war in Ukraine is also an important test of the partnership between Germany and France.
At this point, the EU summit held on March 23, 2023 is important in terms of showing the disagreement between Germany and France on energy. The main starting point of this disagreement stems from the different approaches of Berlin and Paris on energy. In particular, there are serious differences between France and Germany on nuclear energy and combustion engines. Germany’s last-minute blocking of an agreement advocated by some of its partners in the EU, especially France, to ban new sales of fossil fuel cars from 2035 onwards, created a crisis between Berlin and Paris.
Indeed, a group of countries, led by Germany, has opposed Brussels’ attempt to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, i.e. gasoline and diesel, by 2035. Germany wants a clear exemption for e-fuels, an alternative to fossil fuels that would benefit the automotive industry. However, this amendment was twice rejected in the European Parliament (EP).
France, on the other hand, opposes Germany’s expectation and advocates the inclusion of nuclear energy in EU regulations aimed at producing more green technology in Europe, which has disturbed the Berlin administration. At this point, it can be argued that Germany’s stance is more geared towards protecting its own automotive industry. In particular, the war in Ukraine seems to have caused countries in Europe to develop a more protectionist approach in their economic policies.
On the other hand, it can be argued that the origin of the disagreement between France and Germany over nuclear energy actually goes back to the past, but the Russian-Ukrainian War deepened this disagreement. In fact, Paris and Berlin have been at odds with each other over nuclear energy ever since Germany decided to withdraw from nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.
On the other hand, France is one of the world’s leading countries in nuclear energy. Moreover, the Paris administration continues its policy of increasing the number of nuclear power plants in the country. Considering that in 2021, nuclear power plants in France will generate 68% of the country’s electricity, it is clear why Paris attaches great importance to nuclear energy. This is a clear indication of the depth of the crisis between Germany and France.
On the other hand, on March 25, 2023, Germany and the EU agreed on a plan to phase out fossil fuel cars. This is in line with the EU’s goal of becoming a “climate neutral” economy by 2050 with net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Volker Wissing, Germany’s Minister of Transport, has stated that vehicles with internal combustion engines can continue to be registered after 2035 only if they use fuels that are CO2 neutral.
After the dispute was resolved, Berlin argued that it had gained important assurances that EU rules would be technology-neutral, leaving room for e-fuels to be used in a zero-emission framework.
As a result, the relations between Germany and France have been deeply wounded as a result of the aforementioned war, mainly due to the energy dispute. Especially considering that energy geopolitics has become a much more important issue for European countries with the war in Ukraine, it can be predicted that this factor will continue to create tension in the Berlin-Paris line.
 “French-German Friendship ‘Still Alive’ As Macron Meets Scholz Amid Tensions”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/26/french-german-friendship-still-alive-as-macron-meets-scholz-amid-tensions, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).
 “France-Germany Energy Tensions Loom Over EU Summit”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/france-germany-energy-tensions-loom-over-eu-summit/, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).
 “France-Germany Feud Heats Up Over Cars and Nuclear”, Politico, https://www.politico.eu/article/france-germany-rift-over-cars-nuclear-deepens-ahead-of-eu-summit/, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).
 “France and Germany Square Off in Brussels Over Nuclear Power”, Le Monde, https://www.lemonde.fr/en/european-union/article/2023/03/22/france-and-germany-square-off-in-brussels-over-nuclear-power_6020247_156.html, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).
 “Nuclear Power Plants Generated 68% of France’s Electricity in 2021”, U.S. Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=55259, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).
 “EU, Germany Reach Deal on Fossil Fuel Car Phaseout Plan”, France 24, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20230325-eu-germany-reach-deal-on-fossil-fuel-car-phaseout-plan, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).
 “EU, Germany Reach Car Emissions Deal That Makes Room for E-Fuels”, Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-25/eu-germany-reach-deal-on-car-emissions-timmermans-says#xj4y7vzkg, (Date of Accession: 27.03.2023).