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The "balance of imbalances' between France and Germany is gone, and each must see the new calculus in committing to Europe

Berlin Wall

PARIS - Until the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany, France saw the building of Europe as a pursuit of its own politics by other means. More Europe meant more France. If Europe was a "weapon of continuity" for France, it was for Germany (up until Chancellor Kohl), a guaranteed break from its Nazi past. More Europe meant less nationalist temptations for Germany. Despite, or maybe because of this ambiguity, the Franco-German team was overall a success.

As time went by, generations that hadn't witnessed war or the consequences of Nazi Germany, came to power in a reunified country. Germany gradually became a "second France", a country that cared above all about its national interests. In the long term, could Europe survive with "two Frances'?

We are now in a new phase. The balance of imbalances that existed between Germany and France has disappeared. In a 27-member-Europe, weakened by the financial crisis, there is now more Germany and less France. There is also less Europe, at a time when the world has entered a multi-polar era.

As France takes the G20 leadership, it must remember that without a credible and strong Europe, it will quickly lose its voice on the world stage, no matter how good its reforms might be. Europe is the base on which all its members build their foreign policy.

France's problem is not whether it is still playing in the same league as Germany, a question the British media is only too happy to ask, pointing out the differences in the countries' results. France's priority must be to make Europe a credible actor of globalization. This means it must keep the European flame burning in Germany.

"We will have the Germany we deserve," said Joseph Rovan, one of the fathers of Franco-German reconciliation, when he left the death camps. For him, like for Europe's founding fathers it was about transcending the past to build the future. Today, it's about building on Europe's recent past to face today's challenges, "saving the euro to save Europe," most notably. "Keeping a European Germany" is as important for France as "keeping a nuclear Britain," the goal behind the recent security treaties signed by London and Paris.

But how can France convince Germany that it should stay in the euro zone and that its European responsibilities prevail over any other consideration? France can take part in Germany's heated debate in two ways: by showing a firm and clear European dedication, but also a serious and credible economic and social policy.

Trying to keep Germany in Europe is not only a priority in France's foreign policy, it is also necessary for our other international actions to be credible. It is possible to try to make a statement on a case-by-case basis; by selling sophisticated arms to Russia and taking the increasingly dubious bet of Medvedev against Putin. It is possible to play solo on the emerging countries front, India, Brazil, China. But these "policies' are not "a policy". They do not show a long-term strategic vision for Europe, a continent that will shortly represent only 6% of the world population.

Without Germany, there is no Europe; and without Europe, France starts looking very isolated.

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