A mistake in the French translation put a strain on Franco-German relations, causing intense reactions. The leaders of the two countries are particularly at odds over who will be the future European Commission president. EURACTIV France reports.
In a quite a commonplace but frank interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung on 15 May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke about the Franco-German relationship, a rather delicate subject of late.
One sentence in particular added fuel to the fire: “Gewiss, wir Ringen miteinander. Es gibt Mentalitätsunterschiede Zwischen uns sowie Unterschiede im Rollenverständnis“.
The sentence was translated into French in an AFP dispatch as “we have confrontations” or “conflictive relationship”.
Macron quickly replied that he was taking on the “fruitful confrontation” to build compromise.
The chairwoman of the European Affairs Committee, Sabine Thillaye, herself Franco-German, also spotted the translation problem and proposed a more serene interpretation:
“We are debating intensively. There are differences in mentalities between President Macron and myself, yes, as well as differences in the interpretation of our respective roles.”
“Openness to inter-culturalism, taking into account different modes of political organisation, the development of common tools that respect our respective cultures: that is precisely the purpose of the Franco-German Chamber of Commerce,” said Thillaye.
The German Chancellor also indicated she was sceptical about the Spitzenkandidaten process, even if Manfred Weber is the candidate of the European Parliament’s biggest group, the European People’s Party (EPP). His candidacy is another issue where the two heads of state do not see eye-to-eye.
According to a European diplomat quoted by the AFP, Merkel took to heart one of Emmanuel Macron’s remarks made during a press conference in Sibiu last week.
Macron had indicated that the worst candidate should not be agreed upon. Without specifically citing him, Weber was clearly the target. This feeling is shared by many in the Brussels bubble, which irritates the EPP and Germany.
Macron’s position is nonetheless being considered, but Germany is preparing its veto against Michel Barnier, the same way France will be vetoing Manfred Weber.
This situation could benefit Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, who has the potential support of both countries.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]