BERLIN — French President Emmanuel Macron plans to visit Germany in early July against the backdrop of Franco-German disagreements over key policy areas like finances, energy and how to handle China.
Macron is expected to arrive in Germany on July 2 and stay until July 4, with the highlight of the visit being a state banquet in the Bellevue Palace in Berlin hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on July 3, according to three officials familiar with the preparations of the visit.
The French president is also scheduled to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss European and international politics.
The planned state visit comes at a sensitive time. Relations between Germany and France faced a serious meltdown last fall when Macron postponed a Franco-German Cabinet meeting and snubbed Scholz by calling off a planned press conference during the German leader’s visit to the Elysée Palace. The joint Cabinet meeting finally took place in January.
While the two leaders have found common ground with the need to act in the face of massive U.S. green subsidies, major differences remain between Berlin and Paris in key policy areas. These include the planned reform of EU financial rules, the French push to classify nuclear energy as a “green” technology, and how to position the EU amid the growing geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China. Macron’s remarks in an interview with POLITICO last month that Europe should not be dragged into a U.S.-Chinese conflict over Taiwan triggered a strong backlash from Germany.
At the same time, France and Germany are keen to intensify their cooperation on dealing with Russia’s war in Ukraine as well as issues like hydrogen, semiconductors and computer chips and defense. On the latter point, Berlin and Paris plan to develop a joint fighter jet together with Spain, as well as a joint main battle tank.
On May 3, France’s Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said that he would meet his German counterpart before mid-July to discuss the development of the new tank, which is supposed to replace the German Leopard 2 and French Leclerc vehicles.
On Thursday, Germany and France launched, together with seven other EU countries, a new initiative to boost the efficiency of EU decision-making by trying to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting on decisions relating to the bloc’s foreign and security policy.
Several stops of Macron’s state visit, which will also lead the French president outside of Berlin, are still under discussion, according to the officials.
One still unconfirmed possibility is that Macron travels to Dresden, the capital of the eastern German state Saxony, on July 4, where he could visit a planned Infineon chip plant that was visited by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this week and hailed as a milestone toward European mass chip production.
Another option would be for Macron to tour the western German city of Ludwigsburg on July 3 before heading to Berlin. In Ludwigsburg, the Franco-German Institute — a research institution by both countries that also advises on bilateral relations — celebrates its 75th birthday that day; a ceremony for which it invited “high-ranking guests from Germany and France.”
Spokespeople for both the German and French governments declined to comment on the planned state visit, which was first reported by French media outlet Contexte.
Hans von der Burchard reported from Berlin, Clea Caulcutt from Paris.