But now France's inflexibility puts it at risk, said August Hanning. On a brief visit to London, dr. August Hanning warned that Brussels was increasingly being dictated by "risking" France, while the German chancellor gave way to the Franco-German alliance. Germany, he warned, can no longer mitigate the excesses of France's "centralist" approach.
"The relationship between France and Germany is working, but it's not easy at the moment," said Hanning, who also served as Germany's interior minister until 2009.
“When (former Socialist President François) Holland was president, France was not in a strong position and Germany was. But now that has clearly reversed itself.
“This means that France is influencing EU foreign policy much more than before.
“It is now Chancellor Merkel who is weakened. She said she won't run again. Your coalition partners are about to leave. And the divisions between the two countries are widening.
"While Germany still strongly advocates the free market economy with little government interference, France under Macron follows a very centralist policy."
He said Merkel "underestimated" the effect of Britain's exit from the EU.
“In Brexit terms, there is a feeling in Germany that we should have done more to keep Britain within the EU; that we should have shown more flexibility – it would have been in Germany's economic interest to do so.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron (Image: Nicholas Kamm / Pool via REUTERS)
"Germany's opinion is that we want to do everything possible to have a good relationship with Britain.
“It is clear that France's attitude is different – that is the strength of the hard line, skeptical of British involvement. Macron increased that. It may very well block an extension of Brexit.
However, Hanning, who led the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) until 2005, backed claims that Brexit would endanger the sharing of information between Britain and European countries.
"Intelligence is not part of the Treaty of Lisbon – it is not an EU affair," he said.
He said pan-European intelligence groups, known as "flag clubs", including "Club de Berne" and "Paris Group", would still accept British involvement.
"Banner clubs are not a problem – after all, Switzerland and Norway are members," he said.
“Yes, there were warnings about British involvement in Europol. Europol deals with European security, but considering the special relationship that Britain – which is not a Schengen member – already has with Schengen members in intelligence matters, there is absolutely no reason why a solution could not be found. "
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: Sergei Bobylev TASS via Getty Images)
Hanning said Merkel's decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany created a "security crisis" for Germany and the rest of the EU.
"We saw the consequences of this decision in terms of German public opinion and internal security – we face problems every day," he said.
“We have criminals, terror suspects and people who use multiple identities. Those that led to the Berlin attacks used 12 different identities.
“While things are tougher today, we still have 300,000 people in Germany whose identities we can't be sure of. This poses a huge security risk.
“In addition, this decision has led to the rise of the extremist right, and this is also another security risk. AfD would never have received support had it not been for that decision.
“Meanwhile, Merkel herself gives conflicting answers: she claims it was not a mistake on the one hand, while on the other he promised it would never happen again. All of this goes to her political weakness.
This weakness extends further to her inability to establish good personal relationships with foreign leaders, he added.
China's President Xi Jinping (Image: MARK SCHIEFELBEIN / AFP / Getty Images)
Indeed, President Macron's recent meeting with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin boiled down to "Merkel's lack of chemistry with Putin."
"This has been one of Merkel's main problems; I served at the Chancellery under Chancellors Kohl and Schroeder and they have always had good personal relationships with key leaders," he said.
“Merkel has a problem. She gets along well with President XI in China, but it is unclear if the same can be said for others. Certainly her relationship with Macron is not good.
While the EU will continue sanctions against Russia in the short term, Ukraine fears that the Macron-Putin axis will see a compromise agreement put forward by Oligarch and pro-Kremlin opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk who would see what Donetsk and Luhansk created “autonomous” regions – still part of Ukraine, but capable of vetoing national policies such as NATO or EU membership.
“It was Merkel who risked the Minsk deal. She was the guiding force between the peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. As regards Germany, the Minsk agreement is the only offer on the table,
"However, it is now Macron who talks to Putin and discusses the possibility of another appointment."