"Tobin Tax: Just bluffing," headlines French financial daily La Tribune following assurances by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that France "will not wait for the other [EU] countries to agree in order to implement" a tax on financial transactions aimed at fighting financial speculation. The United Kingdom is against such a tax and Germany would like a European consensus on the issue, but the French president has vowed to present a bill to Parliament in February.
For La Tribune, this unexpected announcement, made on the eve of the January 9th meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy is an error motivated by the upcoming April French presidential election.
But, the paper continues, this Lone Ranger attitude adopted by the French president, is more than an error, it is a foul.
A foul against Europe, which defends a community-wide project, the only way to maintain leverage at the global level; a foul against Franco-German fiscal convergence even though it is more than ever necessary for the two countries to move forward in concert; and finally, a foul against France, which has no interest in chasing away the few financial jobs that have not already relocated to London.
In Germany, this "Sarko solo" is sneered at by Spiegel-Online, which calls the initiative a "cuckoo’s egg" in Germany’s nest.
The grandiose verbal spin put on the project cannot hide the fact that with this surprise, solitary action, Sarkozy is wiping his feet on the coordination so touted by Paris and Berlin. As for greater integration of economic policies within the EU and the eurozone, that too falls by the wayside. That is why, in Berlin, this operation was discovered with irritated surprise. Thus, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert declared: "Germany’s goals remain the same, that is to say, the introduction of this tax within the EU.
Why is Sarkozy riding alone? In Barcelona, La Vanguardia sees a simple reason: the need to rid himself of the image of being Angela Merkel’s lackey:
A stinging parody on the Merkozy couple broadcast on New Year’s Eve on Germany’s ARD television channel, based on a 1960s British sketch – Dinner for One – sums up the fatal trap that being stuck with this image represents for Sarkozy. In the sketch, the German Chancellor plays the lady of a mansion, sitting at a table with no other guests, while the French president plays her butler. In a sarcastic metaphor of a European summit meeting, an off-camera voice describes Nicolas Sarkozy as a "loyal servant," always ready to fill the glass of his employer and to follow her instructions: ‘Madame Merkel, the same procedure as the last summit?’ he considerately asks the chancellor.