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Geopolitics

Germany And France...Madame Merkel & Herr Hollande: The Time Is Now

Op-Ed: The posturing of recent days between Berlin and Paris had its logic. But now the moment has arrived to find the terms to strike a deal to save the euro that is what matters most to both countries. And beyond.

Marriage of convenience? (robinhoodtax)
Marriage of convenience? (robinhoodtax)


PARIS - It is customary for contestants in a decisive confrontation to thrust out their chests and flex their muscles in an attempt to impress each other. It is the art of psychological warfare. This is undoubtedly what governments on both sides of the Rhine have decided to do, as the next European meetings to save the euro loom later this month.

One must hope so, because the signals that French and German leaders are sending out aren't the kind that foster serene discussion. In Berlin last Friday, Angela Merkel launched a full-scale attack on the French positions. The German Chancellor said President François Hollande's fervently defended position of a mutualized debt through eurobonds "would lead Germany to mediocrity."

She added that the real question was "the increasing differences between the German and French economies," by which she meant France's declining competitiveness. Two days earlier, her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, sharply criticized France's return to the 60-year-old retirement age.

France was not to be outdone. While Hollande hosted his friends from the German SPD opposition at the Elysée palace, the French minister for productive recovery downright lectured the German Chancellor, denouncing her "ideological blindness."

"The solution isn't budgetary cuts, it's having an ECB (European Central Bank) that does its job," declared the minister Arnaud Montebourg in an interview with Usine Nouvelle. "We want a central bank that reduces public debt, that finances growth while protecting purchasing power."

Uncomforting words

These kinds of declarations, in contradicting basic economic logic, feed into German worries. Berlin suspects the French of wanting to have its cake and eat it too; in other words, of waiting for Germany to finance struggling countries' deficits through debt mutualization without getting down to the painful yet necessary structural reforms for a healthier economy.

Similarly, in Paris, the possible delay of a Court of Audit examination until after the June 28 European Summit contributes to sowing doubt about the seriousness of France's commitments to austerity.

The time has come to move on to a more constructive phase of the summit preparation. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici have already started. Paris should pay closer attention to Germany's genuine worries, and Madame Merkel needs to convince her public opinion that a compromise is in Germany's interest.

Beyond the political decorum, one essential question remains: while Berlin needs to make efforts on debt mutualization and the role of the European Central Bank, Paris has to do the same on European federalism. One cannot happen without the other.

Read more from Le Monde in French.

Photo - robinhoodtax

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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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