FranÃ§ois Hollande, and Why the Germans Can Rest Easy
Within a week of being sworn in as president of France, FranÃ§ois Hollande will attend his first EU summit at a dinner in Brussels.
The 23 May event, called by the European Council president, Herman Van Rompuy, has been organised specifically to size Hollande up, and to suggest that he is already making an impact.
Hollande will already have had his first meeting with Angela Merkel in Berlin, at which they will have tussled over austerity and growth policies in Europe and sought a compromise.
Both are centrist pragmatists, which suggests, but does not guarantee, a readiness to strike a deal. From Blair to Cameron to Obama to Mario Monti in Italy, it would be difficult to find a western leader who is not a centrist pragmatist. But bottom lines, national interests and acute policy differences remain.
As Europe wrestles with its great predicament, Hollande faces charges that he is a âdangerousâ tax-and-spend Keynesian out to reverse the fiscal and monetarist rigour of the Germans and trick them into pooling eurozone debt by issuing eurobonds. Crisis sorted.
To judge by his aides, his programme and his statements, however, Hollande is nothing of the kind.
The French would like eurobonds, if they could get them. But with Berlin saying nein for the foreseeable future - though without ruling them out, eventually - Paris is not pushing.
Michel Sapin, Hollandeâs key economics aide and possible finance minister, told German diplomats in Paris eurobonds were not the answer to the euro crisis, especially if a big enough firewall was in place in the form of the eurozoneâs bailout fund.
âOn eurobonds, Sapin was clearly sceptical,â said a memo to Berlin from the German embassy in Paris, obtained by the Guardian.
Sapin also ruled out big spending programmes: in attempting to reform the French economy, Hollande would opt for supply-side measures of the kind Berlin advocates every day.
âItâs absolutely essential to generate growth, but this can only be done through supply-side measures and no longer through state spending programmes,â the Hollande team told the German diplomats.