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The army chief will be heard behind closed doors in the Bundestag today, a first time agreement between two countries in their cooperation on defence and security projects. General Francois Lecointre will be expected to discuss the development of a combat jet agreed by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel on which the two leaders have been locking horns for weeks.
But the move has been lambasted in France as a proof of Mr Macron’s “submission” to the German Chancellor, in the name of the infamous Franco-German alliance.
Generation Frexit leader Charles-Henri Gallois said in brutal take on the matter: “It’s mind-boggling!
“This permanent submission in the name of an alleged ‘Franco-German couple, which only exists in the minds of our leaders, must stop.
“If there is a couple, it is a sadomasochistic couple and Germany holds the whip.”
Costing more than 100 billion euros, the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) brings together Germany, France and Spain to forge an array of weapons amid deepening European defence cooperation.
Dassault Aviation, Airbus and Indra are involved in the scheme to start replacing France’s Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighters from 2040.
The German Chancellor and French President kicked off the ambitious venture in 2017, when the EU was rattled by Britain’s decision to leave the bloc and deeply divided over other issues such as the migrant crisis.
But some sources close to the project have warned the plans have become tangled in suspicion and divergences between Berlin and Paris.
Last month, a senior French parliamentarian expressed doubts about the project’s viability, citing political constraints including Berlin’s refusal to participate in combat operations abroad.
They said: “To be honest, it would be a lot easier for us to work with Britain because we share the same military culture.”
Britain is running its own BAE Systems-backed fighter programme, Tempest, with Italy and Sweden.
At the beginning of February, Ms Merkel and President Macron failed to settle the issue, leaving open when the next tranche of payments of at least €5 billion can be released, insiders said.
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Last week, General Eberhard Zorn, Inspector General of the Bundeswehr and General Lecointre’s German counterpart was also heard by the French National Assembly.
The FCAS is not the only defence project the two EU leaders are clashing on at the moment.
The French President and the German Chancellor are also on bad terms when it comes to the tank of the future MGCS, the Tiger helicopter, the Eurodrone, the aircraft of maritime or space patrol.
A high-level French official admitted to French daily L’Opinion: “It’s a bit difficult time.”
FCAS is a key part of Mr Macron’s push for military sovereignty on the Continent and his aim to lessen its reliance on the NATO alliance.
So far governments have only approved funding for prototype and design contracts, a small fraction of the multi-billion-euro budget for the 20-year project.
Last month, President Macron said: “FCAS will not be completed in the next few weeks. It’s a complex issue.”
He added: “In the next few weeks, we will have raised the last remaining points and I am then hopeful that, by the spring, we can arrive at the administrative and political validations which are expected to keep the calendar and our ambitions.”
Ms Merkel said that while the project is under French leadership, it must be a project that shows both countries “on an equal footing”.
Adding that “there are still many questions to be clarified”.
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