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The great divide at the heart of Europe

Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz: the spark has gone. Sean Gallup/Getty

“Europe’s leadership couple”, France and Germany, have “taken to sleeping in separate bedrooms”, says Paul Taylor in Politico. The gulf between the two countries can be seen in everything from “geopolitics to defence, energy policy and public finances”. At a recent Paris meeting, Olaf Scholz rebuffed Emmanuel Macron’s pitch for a joint trip to China to present a “united European front” to Xi Jinping. Germany’s leader instead travelled to Beijing with a “posse of industrialists” eager to cut deals, in open defiance of Macron’s hawkish stance. But that’s just the latest in a long list of “grievances about each other’s infidelities”.

Berlin is furious with Macron for refusing to extend an existing pipeline across the Pyrenees to pump “desperately needed” gas from Spain to Germany, and instead negotiating a new underwater pipeline from Barcelona to Marseille. France, meanwhile, “can’t resist reminding Germany” about its stupid decision to close its nuclear plants, which made it reliant on Russian energy. And French officials are “incensed” that Berlin has splurged almost all its new €100bn defence fund on US-made aircraft rather than on Franco-German cooperation projects. This falling-out between the two nations is disastrous for the EU: consensus among the 27 members has only ever been achieved through the “tortured process” of French and German officials painstakingly thrashing things out. “When the Franco-German engine breaks down, nothing moves forward in the EU.”