The atmosphere between Berlin and Brussels is frosty. The Commission has criticised Germany for fighting too hard to protect its interests. Chancellor Schröder, wants to create a new post to deal with European affairs.
Not another European headache
The current situation marks a change in Germany’s attitude to the European Union. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has been at loggerheads with the European Commission over a whole range of issues.
Schröder attacked the Commission’s proposals on Germany's budget deficit, new take-over rules, reform of the car distribution system and phasing out aid to eastern Germany.
On Thursday he moved to defend German industry from European Union policies, citing moves by other countries, notably France, to protect their interests.
Schröder called the Commission "one-sided" and was concerned that Commission proposals could lead to job losses in Germany.
His recent run-ins with the European Commission have not gone unnoticed.
The European Commission said on Thursday it was worried by the drumbeat of criticism from the German Chancellor.
Michel Barnier, commissioner for institutional reform and regional funds, said there was a contradiction between German support for a strong European Union executive and simultaneous attempts to weaken Commission policies.
"We are concerned by the debate, criticisms and questioning coming from Germany about the daily work of the Commission and the decisions we take, which may upset people," Barnier told a news conference.
"We are doing our job," Barnier added.
He spoke of the need for "explanation, confrontation and a special dialogue" with Berlin to clear up repeated misunderstandings in recent weeks.
Minister for Europe
For his part, Schröder is thinking about creating a new post to deal with European affairs. Currently, these issues are dealt with by the Foreign Office.
"In reality", says Hans-Gert Pöttering, an EU parliamentarian, "most questions that EU foreign ministers debate in an EU context do not concern foreign affairs or security policy at all. The foreign ministers simply do not have the time to deal with it. As far as Germany is concerned, that means Fischer (the foreign minister) will briefly appear at an EU foreign ministers meeting, only to be replaced by someone shortly afterwards", according to Pöttering.
So in many respects, the European policiy of member states cannot be regarded as foreign policy anymore – it is domestic European policy, as the chancellor likes to put it.
A German Minister for Europe would be better able to represent Germany’s interests in Brussels is the logic behind the chancellor’s thinking.
And although that shouldn’t be the primary reason for creating such a post, the idea as such has been welcomed across the board in Germany.
France has had a minister for Europe for more than 20 years.