European Council: Hollande launches broadside against Merkel

18 October 2012 – Presseurop The Guardian, Le Figaro, Der Tagesspiegel
The Guardian, 18 October 2012

“Hollande fires warning shot at Merkel over austerity on eve of EU summit,” leads the Guardian. As part of its ongoing Europa project, in conjunction with five other leading European dailies (Le Monde,Gazeta Wyborcza,La Stampa,El País,Süddeutsche Zeitung), “to investigate the European predicament and seek to tease out solutions”, the centre-left daily opens with an interview with French president François Hollande.

As another “crucial” European Council opens today in Brussels in order to shore up the troubled euro, the French president has warned that the Paris-Berlin motor driving Europe could stall over deep differences on how to resolve the eurozone crisis. Although he believes there is “light at the end of the eurozone tunnel” he also, as The Guardian summarises —

• suggested Merkel was too preoccupied with domestic politics in her response to the crisis

• demanded Berlin reverse its opposition to decisions taken by eurozone leaders in June

• called on the eurozone to act promptly to bring down the costs of borrowing for Spain and Italy

• insisted Greece be assured of staying in the eurozone

• gave short shrift to a German push for the creation of a federalised eurozone or political union

• and dismissed as unfounded the strong German criticisms of the recent moves on the crisis by the European Central Bank.

In Paris, Le Figaro takes sides in the “power struggle between Paris and Berlin over the future of the monetary union”. According to an opinion piece in the conservative daily, “no matter what the Elysée says, Angela Merkel is in a position of strength” —

The Chancellor is seeking to maximise her advantage and to insist on reinforced budgetary integration. On the eve of a European Council summit that is supposed to reflect on the Eurozone’s future architecture, Berlin is proposing the appointment of a super-commissioner with the power to veto national budgets — a proposal that was already rejected during the tenure of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Le Figaro further notes that the antagonism between Paris and Berlin “is reminiscent of the chicken or the egg paradox. Germany wants budgetary control to come first before solidarity. France wants solidarity before control —

Confronted with the chicken or the egg question, François Hollande and Angela Merkel will have trouble reaching agreement.

In Germany, Tagesspiegeldraws the same conclusion and notes that the EU, which is being held hostage by the Franco-German dispute over the right relationship between stability and solidarity “is drifting off-course in the fog of the euro” —

Bear in mind that it was precisely the shared historic merit of France and Germany that was praised when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU. And one of the lessons the award aims to highlight is that both countries should keep up their joint efforts in Europe. [...] So will the Eurozone have to go up in flames again before Berlin and Paris come to terms on a common line in their agreement to disagree?