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23rd Sep 2023

Germany tells France: 'nuclear is not green'

  • 'It is well known that we have differing positions on the nuclear issue,' Annalena Baerbock told press after meeting her French counterpart, foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (Photo: Stephan Roehl)
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"Germany will oppose French efforts to label nuclear electricity as green energy," Germany's new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said in Paris on Thursday.

It was her first full day of work and first official visit to a foreign capital since taking office this week.

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Europe is "the heart of German foreign policy. A strong Europe needs strong Franco-German relations," she said, amid Russian threats and a worsening crisis at the Ukrainian border.

Yet the debate about so-called taxonomy - the green labelling system for investors - currently being developed by the European Commission was one of the issues that took centre stage.

Baerbock, who also served as co-leader of the Greens since 2018, said that "no crisis poses more of a threat to humanity than the climate crisis."

"It is well known that we have differing positions on the nuclear issue," she added after meeting French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Along with a group of at least 12 EU member states, France aims to include nuclear and gas as 'green' investments, while Germany opposes atomic energy but is dependent on gas.

On 22 December, the European Commission is likely to unveil investment rules for nuclear and gas, which has become one of the hottest environmental debates in the EU.

The commission and the EU Directorate General for Energy have kept a closed lid on their consultations, with diplomats speculating what side of the debate the ball will fall.

"The truth is: the commission will have to wait for what comes out of the talks between France and Germany. That's just the political reality," an EU diplomat, speaking anonymously, told EUobserver, adding that "nuclear will be labelled green, Macron will get his way."

Gas is a more contentious issue and may not be labelled green or only under specific circumstances.

The expectation is that the subject will be debated at the highest level as new German chancellor Olaf Scholz pays his first visit to French president Emmanuel Macron on Friday (10 December).

German continuity and French ambition

In visiting France first, Scholz follows his predecessors.

Angela Merkel, Gerhard Schröder, Helmut Kohl and Helmut Schmidt all visited Paris first.

Issues on the agenda are the Russian troop buildup on the border with Ukraine, which will dominate talks on Friday.

The European powers will also discuss China and Russia and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will deliver gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Scholz did not want to say if Germany would join a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which China vehemently denies.

On Friday, an unofficial tribunal in London determined that Chinese president Xi Jinping is responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture of Uyghurs and in the Xinjiang region.

And while Macron on Thursday presented a vision for Europe based on "power", ushering in an assertive six-month presidency of the bloc, which starts on 1 January, Scholz on Wednesday vowed continuity with his predecessor, noting that both he and Merkel are from the "even-tempered" north.

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Emmanuel Macron also took hits from French political opponents, including the Green party presidential challenger MEP Yannick Jadot in the European Parliament ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in France in April.

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