Sputnik has talked about Franco-German relations with Peter Schulze, Professor of Politics at Georg-August-University in Göttingen, Germany.
Sputnik: In your view, how likely is Brexit to push France and Germany closer together?
Peter Schulze: Brexit is pushing most of the remaining European countries together; but, of course, there are divisive elements and issues which will not produce a new consensus among the remaining member states. What's interesting at the moment is basically that the so-called taboo areas which were never touched because of the resistance of the United Kingdom, for example, a common security and defence policy, they are now going ahead or getting a new start.
This is, of course, a kind of a welcome development or welcome news for the progress of integration and keeping the union together.
Sputnik: Obviously, the European Union is facing severe challenging times at this present moment in time with Brexit, immigration, the relationship with the United States, trade issues, and worsening ratings in both countries for both leaders. We know that Angela Merkel is under intense pressure in terms of her union with her party as well with certain recent votes that have gone against her party in terms of the support for those parties. What's the main reason for Merkel and Macron's alignment? Is that the things that I've just outlined or are there other issues as well?
Peter Schulze: I think that Macron is driven basically by economic reasons and motivations because the French defence industry is very well-placed in the world market and the recent development with Saudi Arabia where Germany loudly pronounced no weapons anymore in Arabia caused a kind of a backlash in France.
But I don't see the vehicle coming off the ground because if you look, for example, at the Transatlantic bloc in the European Union composed of the Baltic States, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and Denmark, they are cheering for sharing, strengthening NATO and increasing defence spending; and they would be very reluctant in creating a kind of a rival competing force to NATO in the framework of the European Union.
So, I think at the moment the idea has achieved new importance and there's a little breakthrough which we have already seen last year with PESCO, the permanent structure to coordination for states wanted to go further in politics and defence, and foreign policy integration can do so and the others don't stay out.
So, it's a kind of an opting out or opting in solution found; and I think that if the European Union's common foreign and security and defence structure comes up in the next ten years or whatever, it would be a great idea because, first of all, it would diminish or reduce the dominance of the United States in NATO, and it would give much more manoeuvrability and flexibility to European Union member states to act according to their own interests.
Sputnik: Previously, if I'm correct, France was a little bit indifferent towards the plans for a joint EU Army; why do you think Macron has now changed his mind with regard to that, obviously with the full support of Merkel, with regard to this proposal?
Peter Schulze: I think he was a little bit too far out and acting too early, or maybe he didn't find the right words or his words were misinterpreted. I don't think that Macron is going down that path voluntarily and with full speed to engage in a European Army construction. It is economic, basically, because the French defence industry has a very high relevance within the economic structure of France; and France, as we know, is not the safest and most sound economy in the European Union.
Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Peter Schulze and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.