France : François Hollande’s European reponsibilities

18 June 2012 – Presseurop Le Monde, Les Echos

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In the wake of general elections, President François Hollande’s Socialist Party (PS) has a majority in both houses of the French parliament — a particular situation which, as Le Monde points out, means that the newly elected president will have a “historic responsibility with regard to Europe” —

The French monarchical tradition has its disadvantages, but its latest manifestation has one major benefit: it will grant the head of state unprecedented room for manoeuvre, and a freedom of action in the sphere of Europe which most of his colleagues, who have to contend with difficult coalitions or powerful local opponents, do not have.

The only socialist in a European Union dominated by conservatives, the French president will be out on his own, notes the daily, which encourages the new majority to take this into account —

If it is given an opportunity to play a central role in the reorientation of the European project, France should be careful to avoid arrogant action and to listen to all of its partners — that is to say Germany as well as the southern European countries. At the same time, France will have to commit to a necessary drive to restore its public finances and industrial competitiveness.

For its part, Les Echos launches “Another 18 June Appeal”, a reference to General de Gaulle’s famous speech delivered on BBC radio in 1940 after France fell under Nazi occupation —

Now that the elections have been completed in Greece and France, Paris and Berlin must come together and set aside their quarrels.

With ten days left to run before the European Council summit, the business daily calls on both capitals to overcome a dual misunderstanding —

The German government is convinced that François Hollande’s position is simply the expression of political self-interest: this analysis is mistaken. [...] For its part, the Elysée Palace is labouring under another illusion. It firmly believes [...] that Germany, which has taken advantage of all the benefits of the euro, is responsible for the recession in Europe. This is a mirage: the social democrats [SPD] will ratify the fiscal compact. The Germans have not forgotten that the euro was imposed on them in exchange for reunification and that nothing can be achieved without their approval because they have the most financial clout and the strongest economy. [...] Both sides will have to make an effort to overcome these misunderstandings.

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