What Are The Germans Playing At?

Olaf Scholz (SPD), German Vice-Chancellor & Finance Minister

30th November 2018
by Hadrien Desuin

The German Vice-Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, on Wednesday proposed that France abandon its seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, for the benefit of the European Union.

The essayist Hadrien Desuin is a specialist in international affairs and defence policy. He has published La France atlantiste, ou le naufrage de la diplomatie [Atlanticist France, or The Wrecking of Diplomacy], (éd. du Cerf, 2017).

“If we are going to take the European Union seriously, the EU must be able to speak with one voice in the Security Council (…) In the medium term, France’s seat could be transformed into the seat of the EU.” The German Vice-Chancellor, Olaf Scholz’s brief statement has had its effect. The proposition that France surrender its permanent seat on the UN Security Council was taken as a provocation. And yet, France has for twenty years been supporting a reform of the UN that would open the door of the Security Council to Germany. Everyone knows that this reform is impossible, since it calls into question the settlement of 1945, and would require the agreement of the United States, China and Russia.“It is legally impossible because contrary to the UN charter. To change it would also be politically impossible”, as Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to Washington and a NATO supporter, rightly pointed out.

“Surrender your seat on the Security Council and hand over your nuclear arsenal, and then we […] will pool our budget surpluses with your debt.”

Why then this declaration? The fact that the German Vice-Chancellor is also Minister (SPD) of Finance, gives a clue. Germany has little taste for France’s vague attempts to draw on Angela Merkel’s treasury coffers. And Emmanuel Macron is frustrated to see his “sovereign Europe” becoming bogged down precisely where he thought it would be best received: in the Bundestag. The skilful Germans are taking him at his word: surrender your seat on the Security Council and hand over your nuclear arsenal, and then we shall have a sovereign Europe, with a European army. We will then pool our budget surpluses with your debt.

Asking the moon of the French is a roundabout way of telling them that Germany does not want this sovereign Europe, even under German budgetary control. Germany does not seek strategic power. She just wants to hold on to the key to her treasury. On the one hand, the French want to dream of European grandeur; while on the other, the Germans need to be reassured that the French are serious about public accounts.

In short, everyone has their political agenda pending the European elections in May. But watch out for a rude summer awakening: the European dream is a deceptive and head-banging reverie that brings on many migraines. 🇫🇷 Le Figaro