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Geopolitics

French Exasperation: Germany Must Make Up Its Mind On European Debt

Op-Ed: Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel were able to hammer out a deal late last week over a new bailout for Greece. The agreement, however, is shaky – and will remain so until the German Chancellor is willing to take a clear stand on the issue.

Germany's Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy of France
Germany's Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy of France
Dominique Seux

A meeting between France and Germany over the Greek debt crisis has eased the panic that set in last week among political leaders and international markets. Last Friday in Berlin, French President Nicolas Sarkozy once again prevented his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, from withdrawing the help the European Union (EU) was about to offer the Greeks. The political wrestling match predicted by many did not take place: the two heads of state left each other all smiles.

The agreement reached adopts many of the French proposals. Greece will benefit from a new bailout. Banks will participate in the rescue but on a voluntary basis. And the European Central Bank's advice will be taken into account.

Once again, however, the process was confusing and overly complicated – thanks to Germany.

Our neighbors' coalition government and their system of power sharing, which differs a lot from ours, can partly explain this situation. Their concern about public spending is also legitimate. But disagreements among the German political leaders and their last minute reversals have been costly.

On Friday, Merkel told Sarkozy she was not entirely aware of the initiatives taken by her secretary of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble. This is even harder to believe knowing that on Saturday she took a tougher stand on the Greek issue, and gave the impression of backtracking.

Chancellor Merkel cannot keep blowing both hot and cold. She cannot keep defending one line to target her European partners, and another to appeal to her fellow citizens in Germany. Once again, Europe bought some time. But hard negotiations concerning the implementation of the plan are expected. Secretaries of finance of the Euro group began discussions on the subject Sunday, and meetings of the European Council, scheduled for this Thursday and Friday, might help settle the deal. Nevertheless, it is probable that EU countries will need even more time to finalize the agreement, meaning markets are likely to remain feverish.

Once again we can say, and righteously so, that the important thing is that Paris and Berlin manage to speak with one voice. But the two capitals are more than ever facing a terrible dilemma: either they run the risk of a generalized EU crisis, or take a new step toward European federalism. The second option, proposed by the current president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, has long since been dismissed by the political leaders and by public opinion in both France and Germany. Both options are risky, but the second is certainly the more rational. Once again.

Read the original article in French

Photo - elysee.fr

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Geopolitics

Why The 'Perfect Storm' Of Iran's Protests May Be Unstoppable

The latest round of anti-regime protests in Iran is different than other in the 40 years of the Islamic Republic: for its universality and boldness, the level of public fury and grief, and the role of women and social media. The target is not some policy or the economy, but the regime itself.

A woman holds a lock of her hair during a London rally to protest the murder of Mahsa Amini in London

Roshanak Astaraki

-Analysis-

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran on Sept. 16, after a possible beating at a police station, has sparked outrage and mass protests in Iran and abroad. There have been demonstrations and a violent attempt to suppress them in more than 100 districts in every province of Iran.

These protests may look like others since 2017, and back even to 1999 — yet we may be facing an unprecedented turning point in Iranians' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Indeed newly installed conservative President Ibrahim Raisi could not have expected such momentum when he set off for a quick trip to New York and back for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

For one of the mistakes of a regime that takes pride in dismissing the national traditions of Iran is to have overlooked the power of grief among our people.

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