The rising tensions between France and Germany

France and Germany’s relationships are at the heart of the European project and are key to European stability, but the alliance is falling apart. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the change in the European Union’s center of influence towards “Central Europe”—Germany and its eastern neighbors—where, unlike Germany, France’s position have never been relatively impressive.  Both countries have disputes regarding the energy crisis prevailing in Europe and their defense policies. What would the rising differences mean for the EU in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war, where cooperation is more needed for Europe?

Both nations have the two most significant economies on the continent; they are considered pillars of the EU. However, when the Russian-Ukrainian War broke out, differences between the two countries over matters like energy, defense, and the economy reemerged. The divide is even further exacerbated by the Russian gas shortage and its impact on the economy. This crisis demonstrated the fragility of European economies as Europe prepares for a cold winter with an intensifying energy crisis. In addition, the crisis has raised concern about the EU as a whole and whether it is able to meet the demands of its citizens.

The two major areas of disagreement are energy and defense. The war in Ukraine and its subsequent disruption of energy supplies have pushed energy to the top of Europe’s political agenda. Germany announced a major energy support package in late September worth 200 billion euros, which will cap gas and electricity until 2024. This doesn’t go well with the French president. He was irritated that Germany does not inform him in advance about ensuring European security. As per French officials, the German package will create more economic division, with the government in Berlin potentially distorting competition within the bloc by subsidizing energy for businesses. In Paris and other European capitals that are concerned about the effect of the war on their own energy costs, Germany unilateral decision to spend up to 200 billion euros (or $195 billion) to subsidize skyrocketing gas prices has caused a stir. This also opposed an EU-wide energy cap and more joint EU borrowing to inhibit the pain of surging gas prices. Both Germans and French disagree on what sort of energy source should be used.

When it comes to defense, another issue arises, as evidenced by recent decisions by Berlin on military procurement. Germany decided to spend part of its newly created €100 billion investment fund for its armed forces on US F-35 fighter jets, a decision that irritated Paris. The purchases were a significant blow for long-standing efforts to collaborate with France on the development of next-generation aircraft fighters and tanks. Similarly, Macron sees such moves as counterproductive to Europe’s long-term need to ensure more of its own defense. Paris is also frustrated about the slow progress on the Future Combat Air System, Europe’s flagship defense project launched by Paris and Berlin in 2017 to bolster the continent’s military capability. There are concerns with Germany’s prolonged delay in supplying Ukraine with weapons.

Moreover, Germany and 14 other European nations, with the exception of France, signed the Sky Shield Initiative on the sidelines of the latest NATO conference. This was achieved despite France and Italy’s collaboration on the Mamba anti-missile project.

There is division over the EU’s energy policy priorities, which is also related to the developing fuel crisis. Keep in mind that the parties are starting from different positions: Germany faces a direct threat from supply disruptions to the sustainability of its entire economy, whereas France, which currently relies on a combination of nuclear and alternative power generation, is theoretically less dependent on hydrocarbons and Russian gas in particular. From here, French leadership can work to at least partially continue the “green course” within the EU by more readily approving the implementation of threshold pricing for Russian oil and gas, while their German colleagues must replace depleted energy sources as soon as possible even if it means not achieving environmental indicators.

France and Germany don’t agree on how to deal with Europe’s energy or security crises. It’s worth saying that these disagreements have probably been exacerbated by the fact that the balance of power in Europe has been shifting away from Germany over the past couple of years. Shultz didn’t command the political respect that Merkel did, and Germany’s reckless reliance on Russian gas looks embarrassingly naive.

The two strongest and wealthiest EU members have historically dealt with sporadic conflicts in their alliance. They have never been more at odds, however, at a time when Europe requires them to be. The stability of the bloc was threatened by Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, and other members like Poland and the Baltic States challenged the authority of Paris and Berlin.

The rift between Germany and France is likely to get worse. This is particularly notable in light of the accusations directed at countries with little political and economic strength, such as Poland and the Baltic states, for bringing France and Germany’s leadership in the EU into doubt. The viability of geopolitical Europe, which was built on the wrecks of WWII, has been called into question as a consequence of the difficulties it facing, the size and implications of which may not be evident in the near future.


In the end, it is a revival of the partnership between France and Germany that is needed today—not a drifting apart of the two countries. Both are considered engines for European unity and cooperation, so they should collaborate to solve their policies because these states recognize the importance of European unity and cooperation, which has made the Franco-German couple so powerful and influential.

Mashal Zahid
Mashal Zahid
Mashal Zahid has done BS in International Relations from the International Islamic University of Islamabad. Her areas of interest are European politics and society, environmental politics, and humanitarian crises.