There are immediate issues such as relations with Beijing, European industrial policy, and support for Ukraine.
But there are also longer-term issues, starting with the expansion of the European Union, which is inevitable or desirable depending on where you stand, to include the Western Balkans as well as Ukraine and Moldova. It's obvious that a Europe of 35 cannot function in the same way as when there were 15 or 27 member states.
Qualified majority voting
Nine countries, including France and Germany, recently launched a group calling for a move to qualified majority voting for European foreign policy decisions. Currently, the rule of unanimity prevails in this area, allowing isolated countries such as Hungary to block decisions or engage in political blackmail.
It may all seem very technical. But relinquishing one's veto right in such a central area of sovereignty is not so simple. Moreover, while Germany is willing to move to qualified majority voting on all issues, France is more reserved on the topic and wishes to confine it initially to a few areas.
EU expansion could come faster than we think.
Expansion may not be happening anytime soon, but it could come faster than we think. The war in Ukraine has changed things. Last year, the EU decided, after initial reluctance from Paris and Berlin, to grant Ukraine candidate country status: the union’s unity with the Eastern and Baltic countries was at stake.
By the end of the year, a decision will have to be made on whether to open negotiations with Kyiv, with repercussions for other candidates who have been waiting for years that would not take kindly to being left out. This could lead to an acceleration of the timetable, which would create significant operational challenges.
Therefore, France and Germany, whose weight remains decisive, have every interest in reaching an agreement before being faced with a dilemma, as they were last year with Ukraine. This is a typical old-school European concern about power, which justifies the rising tensions, beyond polarized opinions, on many subjects.
But if there is one thing that decades of Franco-German relations have taught us is that tensions can be handled.