Growing Imbalance Between Germany and France Strains Their Relationship
By ALISON SMALE and LIZ ALDERMAN SEPT. 21, 2014
BERLIN - It was a clear illustration of the dysfunction of the French-
German partnership, the axis that for decades kept Europe on a united
and dynamic track.
In Berlin this month, Chancellor Angela Merkel, riding high after
nine years in power, delivered a strident defense in Parliament of
austerity, which she has been pushing on Europe ever since a debt crisis
broke out in 2009.
But if the message was familiar, on that day it seemed to have a
deliberate target: France, Germany's No. 1 ally, whose government had
just waged a vociferous backlash against her program, and said that it
would not meet European Union deficit goals until 2017.
That rhetorical volley was the latest example of how far the
partners have drifted apart. While their formal relationship remains
close, the power balance has shifted sharply since Europe's debt crisis
erupted, raising doubts about their ability to continue their traditional
role of together leading Europe in new economic and political
The two countries are in such different places - economically,
socially and politically - that the vaunted partnership teeters on the
verge of a breakdown, analysts warn.
"The problem is that the relationship has become deeply
unbalanced," said Dominique MoÃ¯si, a senior adviser at the French
Institute for International Relations. "The French and Germans are not
playing in the same league any longer, and the overall equilibrium of
Europe was depending on a relatively balanced relationship, which no
Just last year, France and Germany were celebrating the 50th
anniversary of their agreement to bury centuries of hostility and
cooperate more closely than almost any other independent nations.
But the French economy has grown stagnant,