Reviving European industrial policy to counter rising energy prices, the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and negative effects of protectionist measures taken by third countries, including the US, was called for by French and German governments on Tuesday (22 November).
German and French Economy Ministers Robert Habeck and Bruno Le Maire said they were “firmly resolved to work together to provide an adequate response to the most vulnerable economic sectors” in a statement released by their respective ministries.
According to the text, France and Germany will make “joint purchases of gas […] in order to bring down prices for consumers and industry” and say they are in favour of a “structural reform of the electricity market” to achieve sustainable control of energy prices.
The two allies also announced the launch of Franco-German cooperation in strategic sectors such as hydrogen, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, space policy, quantum computing and raw materials supply.
With European and not just Franco-German action, all this should enable “our companies to prosper in global competition” to strengthen “European strategic sovereignty” and “prevent the negative effects of protectionist measures taken by third countries,” such as the United States with the Anti-Inflation Act.
This is because both countries hope to play a leading role in ensuring that the EU strengthens “its strategic sovereignty in energy and industry.”
This comes after months of strained relations between Paris and Berlin, who now pledge to “coordinate and align [their] support for those companies most affected by the energy crisis […] to prevent any undermining of the fairness of the internal market.”
This promise is not insignificant, considering that several weeks ago, a French government source told EURACTIV France that it was disappointed and angry with the German government’s €200 billion plan to fight economic instability, saying it would have hoped for “more solidarity in response to the energy crisis.”
More recently, a high-ranking German source explained Franco-German tensions through the prism of the war in Ukraine: “We have entered a completely different world. This is an opportunity to rethink our strategies. This is what we are doing in a context of crisis and enormous pressure on governments.”
The two ministers said they were “convinced that Germany and France have a key role to play” in the crisis that the EU is going through, between inflation, soaring energy prices and the competitiveness challenges it faces.
The meeting between the two economy ministers follows the one between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Monday.
A very “Franco-German week” since the prime minister’s office announced on Tuesday that French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne would travel to Berlin for talks with her counterpart Olaf Scholz on Friday.
(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr)