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Germany, France, Poland seek unity on Ukraine support

March 15, 2024

The Weimar Triangle, comprising Germany, France and Poland, seeks to align its policies on Ukraine, highlighting the importance of unity in European support strategies.

Olaf Scholz shaking hands and smiling with Emmanuel Macron
Chancellor Olaf Scholz insists his personal relationship with President Emmanuel Macron is goodImage: Lewis Joly/AP/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron are seeking to find a common language for handling Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine. Following a one-on-one meeting, they will be joined by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The aim is for the three major European countries to reach joint political decisions.

"Weimar Triangle" refers to a regional alliance of France, Germany and Poland created in 1991 in the German city of Weimar, intended to promote cooperation in cross-border and European issues.

Germany is more closely intertwined with France in terms of politics, administration and civil society than with any other country in the European Union. Among those who pay close attention to the partnership, some are now convinced that on a personal level there is more that divides Scholz and Macron than unites them.

Ahead of Friday's meeting, Scholz said that — contrary to "what many people think" — he gets on well with Macron.

"Emmanuel Macron and I have a very good personal relationship — I would call it very friendly," said Scholz.

France, Germany celebrate 60 years of Elysee Treaty

Macron standing up for Ukraine

Scholz's comments set the tone for the meeting after rifts appeared on the issue of weapons deliveries for Ukraine.

After a recent meeting in Paris of European countries supporting Ukraine in its self-defense against the Russian invasion, Macron, when asked a question by a journalist, didn't rule out the possibility of deploying European soldiers to Ukraine at some point.

In Berlin, however, the German chancellor was quick to reject the idea. Meanwhile, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski gave his support to Macron, saying that European soldiers in Ukraine were "not unthinkable."

Scholz made sure to point out that Germany has supplied the most arms to Ukraine, with France in 14th place and Poland most recently in 10th.

Security expert Bruno Tertrais, the deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, believes Macron has changed his stance toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. Two years ago, at the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, France was still trying to keep the door open to talks with Russia. This is now over.

Support for Macron's foreign policy

Domestically, Macron is now enjoying support for his foreign policy: both the French Parliament and the Senate have voted in favor of a security agreement between France and Ukraine. A similar agreement had previously been reached between Germany and Ukraine.

Among other things, the agreement stipulates that all partner nations will provide military assistance to Ukraine for the next 10 years.

Although Macron's party failed to win a majority in the last election, he has been able to count on the support of France's conservatives for his firm pronouncements on foreign policy. The country is a member of the UN Security Council and, unlike Germany, has its own nuclear shield.

Taurus rifts within Germany

For the German chancellor, the situation at home is quite different. The day before the Franco-German-Polish meeting, the largest opposition group in the Bundestag, the conservative CDU/CSU, introduced a motion for the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. Scholz had been opposing the deal for months.

The non-binding motion failed. But during the debate, lawmakers from Scholz's own coalition government made it clear that their opinion differs from that of the chancellor.

In other words, Scholz was entering into talks with Macron and Tusk on a common Ukraine policy weakened on the domestic front.

Scholz again rules out sending Taurus missiles

Ukraine in urgent need of munitions

What's more, the small country of the Czech Republic has demonstrated how to help Ukraine effectively, while Germany and France have struggled to find common ground.

Ukraine is in urgent need of artillery munitions to counter the massive Russian attacks in the country's east.

At the Munich Security Conference in February, Czech President Petr Pavel announced for the first time that his Defense Ministry had identified 800,000 Czech-made artillery shells in different countries around the world. During an appearance a month ago, he called on EU partners to provide funds to buy back these shells.

According to the Czech online news portal Seznam Zpravy, 18 countries have agreed to help the Czech Republic finance the initiative and help Ukraine directly in this difficult phase of the war following last year's failed counteroffensive.

"The first munitions are already arriving in Ukraine," German security expert Nico Lange told DW. "The German chancellor and the French president missed the opportunity to send out this important signal at the Munich Security Conference and, I believe, were rightly criticized for doing so."

But Tertrais believes Polish Prime Minister Tusk, with his previous experience as president of the European Council, could now be "exactly what is needed to bring the Germans and the French together."

This article was originally written in German.

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