Delors warning over Paris and Bonn split

European unity: French fear Germany as the main threat

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

Jacques Delors has warned it may no longer be Britain which is the main cause of disunity in the European Union. The Franco-German axis, historically the driving force behind European integration, is itself becoming a problem, he has cautioned.

The New Year in France has brought an icy blast of frankness about the growing instability of the relationship between Bonn and Paris, a subject hitherto thought settled. The former president of the European Commission and the historian Francois Furet have both said this week that, whether or not European unity turns out to be the solution, a preponderant Germany could very well be the problem, as it has been before.

For these two figures - one from the left, the other from the right - to sound so public a warning shows the growing concern in France. Mr Delors decided last year not to stand for the French presidency race because he feared to inflame the European issue in France.

Reviewing a new book about Europe by Laurent Cohen-Tangui in the magazine Nouvel Observateur yesterday, Mr Delors wrote: "I cannot but approve when the author invites us not to focus more than necessary on the classic reservations of Great Britain [about Europe] ... Let us have the courage to recognise that the real risk today is not so much the risk of a Euro- British crisis as that of a Franco-German split."

Interviewed the previous day in the daily newspaper Figaro, Mr Furet said: "France today has two main problems: the first is that of budget deficits ... the other, that of Europe... But these two problems have the same face: Germany."

France's deficit-cutting drive, which provoked the recent public-sector strikes, is partly a response to German dismay at the failure of other countries to match German fiscal discipline.

Mr Furet added that "120 years after Bismarck and two world wars, we find ourselves facing the very same question that was posed at the end of the last century: how can Europe be made to live when it has such a German preponderance?".

Mr Delors criticises Mr Cohen-Tangui's view that the fall of the Berlin wall called into question the guiding ideas of the European Union's founders. But in maintaining that these principles, above all the desirability of locking Germany into a united Europe, are more necessary than ever, Mr Delors warns that this project could fail.

"By swinging between the reflex of sovereignty a la anglaise and federalist ambition a la Germany, the native land of Jean Monnet [founding father of the EU] ... risks discouraging those German leaders who have repeatedly and unfailingly shown their allegiance to a European Germany rather than a German Europe."

For such a pro-European as Mr Delors to suggest this, even as a pretext for proposing a "European federation of nation-states", suggests the Franco-German relationship is not as solid as both sides insist.

Mr Furet's historical allusions drive home the point. The reason why the German problem has returned, he says, is "because Germany is at the centre of Europe, it is the most productive and most populous country, it is unified and, with the end of Communism and for the first time since Peter the Great, it has no counterbalance in the East. We therefore face a Europe where Germany is the dominant power".

The depth of French fears was clear last year. Successive Franco-German meetings, including two summits held at short notice on French instigation, seemed designed to reassure Germans about France's commitment to Europe under President Jacques Chirac, and its determination to meet the Maastricht criteria for a single currency.

However, German concerns about France and Maastricht pale into insignificance compared with France's fears about Germany's commitment to the European project. It fears a Europe so dominated by Germany that it is in effect German; it fears the idea of a federal Europe in which national sovereignty is sacrificed. Above all it fears that if Germany forsakes the single currency, the European project is dead.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory