France-Germany: Hollande follows in Schröder’s footsteps

11 September 2012 – Presseurop Financial Times Deutschland, Financial Times Deutschland, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung & 2 others

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"Introducing Gerhard II," teases the German financial daily Financial Times Deutschland. For the paper, the French President's announcement of an austerity plan and social reforms through to 2014, is reminiscent of the "Agenda 2010" launched in 2003 by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. "Hollande aspires to be Schröder," the paper concludes in a front page article.

French financial daily, Les Echos, says the comparison is flattering to the French president —

It is a friendly approximation to compare the 2014 agenda improvised by the French president to Agenda 2010 which was implemented – and with such success! – by the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. [...] Launched in 2003 with a public deficit of 3.7%, Agenda 2010 was part of a thought-out, long-term growth strategy. Typically German, it relied on structural reforms in the economy and in society to overcome shocks, even temporary ones. [...] It was not a case of austerity for the sake of austerity, but of austerity for the sake of competitiveness. Nothing of the sort emerges from François Hollande's comments.

German daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, while hailing "the president of appeasement", notes that the "French exception" is dead

It is urgent for the president to explain to his compatriots why France cannot be an exception within the eurozone, why it must bend to strict budgetary rules. Taking up the word "agenda" from former Chancellor Schröder is not enough to become a social-democrat reformer. For now, Hollande brings to mind [Georges] Clémenceau who said mockingly, "France, a very fertile country: just plant civil servants and taxes crop up everywhere."

As for the Financial Times Deutschland, it notes that the word "agenda" implies more than a series of reforms and that it requires a certain political tenacity —

Hollande must, like the chancellor at the time, launch ahead at the risk of angering his electorate.

French daily Le Monde calls for courage, indispensable to those who must reform —

Schröder imposed unpopular measures on his country. He made decisions himself. He paid the political price. Three years after the launch of his "Agenda", he was sanctioned by the ballot box [in favour of Angela Merkel]

Le Monde concludes with a warning —

Restoring French competiveness requires profound reforms. [François Hollande] has sketched them out. It is now up to him to clarify them and to implement them. Firmly. Not everyone can be a Schröder.

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