“What is this? Schadenfreude ? “, a big German boss present in the room chokes. The expression, commonly used these days across the Rhine, refers to rejoicing in the misfortune of others. When the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, took the stage at the Franco-German meetings in Evian on September 7, he took the opportunity to recall, once again, the good performance of the French economy. German business leaders rate it moderately; everyone is worried about the signs of running out of steam in the euro zone’s largest economy.
Weakened by its great dependence on Russian gas and the Chinese market, as well as by the dysfunctions of the ruling coalition, Germany has become aware of the limits of its model since the war in Ukraine. She’s not the only one. “Is Germany the sick man of Europe again? », headlined the British weekly in mid-August The Economist, resuming the famous formula which made its headlines in 1999.
Since Germany fell into recession at the start of the year, the French executive cannot resist the comparison game. “France is becoming the locomotive of Europe”repeated Bruno Le Maire on LCI, on September 12, emphasizing his “exceptional economic results”, a few days after Germany confirmed the contraction of its activity in the second quarter. “The year 2023 promises to be difficult, we can legitimately be worried, in particular about the recession among our German friends”he had already supported at the end of August, at the Medef summer universities, after having ured a few weeks earlier on Radio J that he did not want “ win a match against Germany “. Even Emmanuel Macron had difficulty abstaining in front of his ministers, meeting in a seminar on September 6. “You are lucky ministers, in a country which is neither in recession nor undergoing austerity”he stressed, without naming his powerful neighbor.
Ancient French obsession
A flattering editorial from the German weekly Der Spiegel September 5, praising the successes of the French economy – “France is Germany but better” – validated the argument. “I never thought I would see the words “economic miracle” and “France” in the same sentence, we are not going to shy away from it! »welcomed Bruno Le Maire to the press, in Berlin, Wednesday September 13, where he came to plead in favor of a “industrial strategy” European Union with his German counterparts in finance and economics, respectively Christian Lindner and Robert Habeck. A few hours earlier, speaking in the language of Goethe, he had spoken of “ Zeitenwende » (change of era) before the German council of ministers.
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