France and Germany: A tale of two countries drifting apart

A political, economic and demographic divide has opened up between France and Germany. And, if that were not trouble enough, a new Pew Research Center survey suggests that these two countries, which have for decades been the driving force behind European integration, increasingly see the world through different lenses.

The Franco-German alliance was based on rough equality between these two continental powers. In the 1980s, West Germany’s economy and population were slightly larger than France’s, but not overwhelmingly so, and French economic growth actually exceeded its neighbour’s.

Three decades later, this rough balance between Germany and France no longer exists. Germany’s population is now a quarter larger than that of France, the German economy is 38% bigger. And while the German economy grew at an admittedly weak 0.9% in 2012, the French economy did not grow at all.

Today the French and the Germans differ so greatly over the challenges facing their economies that they look as if they live on different continents, not within a single European market.

More important for the future of the European Union, in 2009, 43% of the French were of the view that European economic integration had strengthened the French economy. At the same time, 50% of Germans thought integration had benefited Germany, a seven-percentage-point difference. Today, the figures for France and Germany are 22% and 54% respectively – a difference of a full 32 points.

The French and Germans have also parted ways in their views of the European Union as an institution. In 2007, before the euro crisis, 62% of the French and 68% of the Germans had a favourable opinion of it. In 2013, just 41% of the French still hold the EU in high regard, while 60% of the Germans do. A six-point gap in attitudes has grown to a 19-point gap in just a half dozen years.

Full article: France and Germany: A tale of two countries drifting apart (BBC News)

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