CDU politician calls for better Franco-German ties after NATO row

DU Member of Parliament Norbert Roettgen speaks during a debate about the 5G network expansion during the Party Congress of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Leipzig, Germany, 23 November 2019. [Clemens Bilan/EPA/EFE]

Germany and France must bury their differences and pursue a constructive partnership with concrete ideas, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a public spat between the two European Union heavyweights over NATO.

Relations between the neighbours, traditionally the axis of the 28-member bloc, have become particularly tricky since French President Emmanuel Macron came to power as his ambitious plans for reform have often hit the buffers with cautious Merkel.

Many commentators say the fraught relationship between Berlin and Paris is holding back the EU at a time when it needs to show a united front towards other world powers, such as the United States and China.

Macron irked some allies, including Germany, this month by saying the NATO defence alliance was experiencing brain death and casting doubt on its collective guarantee, whereby an attack on one member is an attack on all in NATO.

France's Macron decries NATO 'brain death' ahead of anniversary

European countries can no longer rely on the United States to defend NATO allies, French President Emmanuel Macron warned in an interview on Thursday (7 November), only weeks ahead of a meeting of NATO leaders in London, supposed to mend the widening cracks in the Western military alliance.

Merkel slapped down Macron saying he had used “drastic words” and had overreacted. She saw NATO differently, she said.

Merkel rallies round NATO following Macron 'brain dead' claims

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Merkel rejects Macron’s criticism of NATO. Angela Merkel played down French President Emmanuel Macron’s words, which …

Norbert Röttgen, a member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told Germany’s Bild daily that he understood the chancellor.

“But all this doesn’t help, we have to get relations with France back on a constructive track,” he told Monday’s edition of Bild, according to an extract released on Sunday (24 November).

“To do that we don’t always have to wait for Macron’s proposals, but we must make some, or at least one, of our own,” he said, suggesting ideas such as a common 5G network for the two countries or a bi-national sovereign bond for innovation.

“We could transform ourselves from the repairman into a driver of German-French ideas,” he said.

Bild daily also cited a report in the New York Times which said Merkel had shown exasperation with Macron at a dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“I understand your desire for disruptive politics. But I’m tired of picking up the pieces. Over and over, I have to glue together the cups you have broken so we can then sit down and have a cup of tea together,” she was reported as saying to him.

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