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Merkozy Is Dead, Long Live The Franco-German Alliance

Angela Merkel openly supported Nicolas Sarkozy during France’s just concluded presidential campaign. Now that her man was beaten by Socialist candidate François Hollande, Merkel is ready to make concessions on growth, but won’t budge on deficit.

Auf wiedersehen Nicolas (Sebastian Zwez)
Auf wiedersehen Nicolas (Sebastian Zwez)
Nathalie Versieux

BERLIN – Germany may welcome Francois Hollande with "open arms," but Angela Merkel has already made one thing very clear: "The fiscal pact is not up for discussion."

The German chancellor was pulling for Nicolas Sarkozy to be reelected. She will now have to get used to a new partner whom she barely knows. Indeed, she refused to meet François Hollande during the French presidential campaign.

"There were contacts beforehand. The debate wasn't always easy, but discussions took place and both teams are now better prepared to each other than in 2007," says Chantal Mairesse from the Genshagen Foundation. That's also because, unlike Nicolas Sarkozy five years ago, Hollande has several Germanophiles among his top advisors.

"Between France and Germany, it's not about people," says German member of Parliament Andreas Schockenhoff. "Both teams will have to work in a constructive fashion and not waste time."

Merkel's real worry isn't the new French president, but financial markets that seem – at least from Berlin – to be waiting for Paris to quickly express support for the fiscal pact, before the Irish referendum later this month. Insiders of Merkel's party, the CDU, say that if France is seen dragging its feet, the Irish will say ‘No" to the pact -- and that will be the end of the common currency.

The "G" word

On both sides of the Rhine, commentators believe the new French president won't clash head on with German interests. Merkel is also aware that she will have to soften her stance.

In recent speeches, the German chancellor has started mentioning ‘growth" as a tool in the fight against the debt crisis. But she hasn't given an inch on fiscal discipline.

"A newly elected president must present a few successes to his voters," says Schockenhoff. "One way or another, he will have to rewrite a line here and there in the fiscal pact to make it seem as if he got something out of Germany."

And that without Berlin thinking it has budged at all. "There are fundamental lines that must be followed, but in between there is some leeway if you have smart negotiations," says Stefan Seidendorf from the Franco-German Institute of Ludwigsburg.

Three of the proposals Hollande wants to submit to his European partners in order to kick start growth are acceptable to Merkel: opening more funding options for the European Investment Bank, mobilizing any leftover European structural funds not currently used, and creating a tax on financial transactions.

Hollande's fourth proposal – creating euro bonds – has been met with a very public Nein. For Germany, it is unthinkable to mutualize the debt of southern European countries. At least for now. "When Angela Merkel says she won't do something, we know she'll change her mind tomorrow or the day after," jokes Axel Schafer, a Social Democrat member of the Bundestag. Indeed, his own party, once hostile to euro bonds, has just started supporting them.

Read more from Le Temps in French

Photo - Sebastian Zwez

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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