France and Germany on the rocks? Nein! Non!
BRUSSELS (AP) — To hear France and Germany tell it, rumors that their romance is dead are greatly exaggerated.
The partnership was once rhapsodized as Europe's greatest love story. France's previous President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel were considered so close even their names couldn't bear to be apart: They were often referred to simply as Merkozy.
However, once Francois Hollande took over as France's president in May, the strains began to show. France and Germany soon drifted apart on how to solve Europe's financial crisis.
And the rift seemed to widen this week, with reports that Germany was increasingly worried about the state of the French economy. While Germany is the powerhouse of Europe, France has struggled in its position as the No. 2 economy. Many economists have warned that the French are moving too slowly on reforms.
But the French and German finance ministers, attending meetings in Brussels, went out of their way to convince reporters there was no rift. None at all.
Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble shouted, "Vive la France!" as he passed behind his counterpart, Pierre Moscovici, who was taking questions from reporters before Monday's meeting.
But the questions persisted. So a joint press conference, the political cure-all for rumors of a divide, was organized.
Moscovici said his admiration for Schaeuble knew no bounds. "The first phone call I made was to him," he said Tuesday. "The first visit I made was to see him."
But what about the fundamentals: Is Germany worried that France is the sick man of Europe?
"No!" Schaeuble shouted, before the question was even finished. "But we don't give each other grades."
That's just not how they are with each other.