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Compromise on Mediterranean Union

Latest update : 2008-07-12

Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have reached a "compromise" on the thorny issue of a Mediterranean Union, about which Berlin had previously expressed misgivings.

View our special report on the Union for the Mediterranean. 



French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to meet Monday night in Hanover to talk about the many questions left hanging as a persistent malaise affects Franco-German relations.

French budget policy, which the German finance minister, Peer Steinbrück, has repeatedly criticized, is one of the bones of contention. Steinbrück reacted angrily at France’s recent announcement that it would not balance its budget before 2012.

A Feb. 25 meeting between Steinbrück and his French counterpart, Christine Lagarde, was cancelled, leading to speculations that it was France’s way of lashing back at Germany. “The French government has no time left for its German partner,” the daily Handelsbalt wrote at the time.

For Martin Schulz, a German Socialist, the current difficulties facing the French government on the eve of the municipal elections explains some of the tension between the two heads of State. “Nicolas Sarkozy is performing so badly that his political weaknesses on the national stage affects French-German cooperation,” the head of the Socialist group at the European Parliament told Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

The strength of the euro has been the subject of constant criticism by Sarkozy since he came to power. He has also continuously suggested that some political control should be exerted over the European Central Bank, while the independence of the bank is a principle the Germans hold dear.

Going it alone?

The Germans generally blame the French government for not consulting them enough on European policy. France's sending troops to eastern Chad strongly irritated Merkel, who’s having an increasingly hard time justifying the Bundeswehr commitment in Afghanistan.

The project to create a Mediterranean Union headed by France is perceived as a violation of the idea of a common European foreign policy. “You can’t have some people interested in Ukraine and others in the Mediterranean,” Merkel said in January at a French UMP party convention, where she spoke as a guest.

Finally, the French desire to sell civilian nuclear energy to emerging countries is deemed highly suspicious by a country traditionally wary of nuclear power. The German weekly Focus summed up in its online edition the French policy in North Africa as “a policy that wants to build French nuclear plants around the Mediteranean and to link them with the TGV”.

Date created : 2008-03-03