PARIS (Reuters) – A chill has settled over the Rhine seven months after the election of Socialist French President Francois Hollande, reshuffling the cards in Europe’s perpetual power game.
The cooling of traditionally close Franco-German relations was partly an intentional step by Hollande to demonstrate that he is not in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pocket but wants to change the policy direction of the European Union.
It also reflects a fraught process of rebalancing power to accommodate Germany’s greater political heft and economic clout.
Despite vows of ever closer cooperation that are sure to mark the 50th anniversary next month of the treaty that sealed post-war Franco-German reconciliation, tension is likely to simmer at least until next September’s German general election.
Hollande was keen to distance himself from his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s exclusive alliance with the German leader, which became known as “Merkozy” because of the dominant role they played in steering the euro zone debt crisis.