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Macron, Scholz plan Berlin dinner to talk energy crisis, Russia tensions

BERLIN/PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to travel to Berlin on Monday to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a working dinner, three officials familiar with preparations for the trip told POLITICO.

The sit-down, contingent on Scholz having recovered from COVID, would fall on a historical date — October 3, the day of German reunification. The goal would be to align France’s and Germany’s positions ahead of an informal EU leaders’ summit in Prague on Thursday and Friday.

Topping the expected agenda are the energy crisis, capping gas prices, the recent Baltic Sea pipeline blasts and new Russia sanctions, which the European Commission proposed on Wednesday.

The pair are also planning to discuss support for Ukraine and Franco-German defense cooperation — a tense subject as both France and Germany have faced criticism for not offering Kyiv adequate military aid and failing to ensure credible autonomous European defense.

Also on the table: The “MidCat” gas pipeline from the Iberian Peninsula to Northern Europe. The French government said Wednesday it is reassessing whether to drop its opposition to finalizing the gas and hydrogen conduit.

Neither Berlin nor Paris has yet officially confirmed the meeting because of Scholz’s positive coronavirus test on Monday. However, a spokesperson for Scholz told reporters on Monday that the chancellor was “quite hopeful” that he would be recovered within a week, allowing him to participate in Monday’s festivities for the German reunification in Erfurt.

According to the tentative plan, Scholz would return to Berlin after the festivities to receive Macron for a working dinner, likely held at Schloss Meseberg, a baroque castle north of Berlin used as the government’s guest house.

Many will be watching to see if the meeting coincides with announcements of new weapons for Ukraine. Both leaders are under pressure to send Ukraine battle tanks as part of a heightened aid package. Yet while Macron is expected to soon announce more weapons for Kyiv, such as Caesar howitzers, battle tanks are not likely to be on the list, according to officials.

“[The Ukrainians] have made some requests, in particular for the Caesars,” Macron told reporters in New York last week. “We have made deliveries, we will make some more. We have other equipment.”

Scholz stressed on Wednesday in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “that Germany would not cease to provide concrete support to Ukraine politically, financially and with humanitarian aid, as well as in defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including with arms deliveries,” according to a spokesperson.

Scholz has more high-level meetings planned for next week: On Tuesday, he will receive Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Berlin for German-Dutch climate talks, before traveling to the northern Spanish city A Coruña on Wednesday for Spanish-German government consultations.

On Thursday, Scholz will continue his travel to Prague for the first meeting of the “European Political Community,” a summit of leaders from EU countries and neighboring countries that Macron initiated. On Friday, EU leaders will get together in Prague for an informal European Council summit.

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

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