Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anti-German Anger Appears in France

Several months ago when European commentators began suggesting that the spectre of a collapse of the Euro currency could lead to political fights and even conflict among European nations, I thought, ‘how silly, of course that could never happen now.’
But, this week, the old animosities between France and Germany raised their heads and French political figures outside government began to say things that are reminiscent of the germanophobia that is always lurking beneath the surface in France and most of Europe. Germany’s three invasions and occupations of France since 1870 have left deep-seated scars and fears that the European Union has papered over but not erased.
This past week, one could hear French political figures using such phrases as ‘Bismarckian politics,’ ‘the meeting at Munich in 1938,’ and ‘German dictat’ to express their views about how German Chancellor Merkel is managing the Eurozone crisis and about how it reflects Germany’s attitude toward the rest of the European Union. These phrases would have been commonplace during and after either World War I or II, but today, in Europe, brotherhood is supposed to have replaced the fears and hatreds of the past.
An important Socialist leader, Arnaud Montebourg, went so far as to say that Chancellor Merkel wants to ‘kill the Euro’ and that she is leading a political system that smacks of ‘German nationalism à la Bismarck.’ Montebourg, a presidential candidate who withdrew in favor of François Hollande in the 2012 election, added that ‘the time has come to confront Germany politically and defend French values.’
When attacked for his remarks by a German European Parliament member, Montebourg replied that German Socialists are saying the same thing. And in Bavarian newspapers, some German Socialists are indeed saying such things.
A well-respected French intellectual has referred to the ‘mental rigidity’ and ‘power drunkenness’ of Germany and Mrs. Merkel.
These comments were made while French President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel were meeting to try to resolve their differences about how to control the Eurozone problem before it explodes, making a solution impossible. Their differences are not minor ones. They disagree profoundly about what the role of the European Central Bank should be and what it can and should be doing to save the Euro currency from collapse.
In addition, Germany’s demand that the solution to the Euro crisis is to force all Eurozone member nations to hold their budget deficits to less than 3% of their Gross National Product for each year, is fueling the flames of dissension in the Eurozone because no country has been able to do this in the past when times were good and so, the argument goes, there is no possibility to do it now. Only Germany might succeed and so all the other Eurozone countries would be fined annually for not meeting budget targets - with no hope of relief.
The Gaullist party in power in France is trying to stop the attacks on Germany and Merkel. Foreign Secretary Alain Juppé made a statement saying that French Socialists run the risk of giving new life to the old demons that have caused many wars in Europe between France and Germany. “It is shameful to undermine the precious reconciliation and friendship we have built with Germany and to endanger the French-German EU leadership tandem…” that makes Europe work, he added.
However, the French Socialist presidential candidate, François Holland, criticized the German proposals about the 3% budget overrun limits, and said that he would not support changing EU treaties to make the penalties for such overruns more strictly enforceable.  
A poll published Friday found that 4 in 10 French think President Sarkozy is not tough enough with Chancellor Merkel.
So, dear readers, while you are hearing that the Euro is here to stay, that the crisis has been averted, that Europe is cured of its currency illness, do not be too sure. The waves being caused by the Euro are long from being calmed, and the Euro itself is still in danger. What we are now witnessing is an effort to save European banks and economic structures when and if the Euro fails.
And, the old anti-German feelings being expressed in France are symptoms of a much deeper crisis of European confidence than any newspaper or TV financial analyst is likely to suggest.   

1 comment:

  1. It took y'all long enough to realize what was going on in Germany with Ms. Merkel.