France is staring into the abyss over eurozone crisis
France is staring into the abyss today, facing fundamental challenges to its political and economic status, and perhaps even its idea of itself as exceptional and, yes, a little better than the rest of us.
By James Kirkup
16 Dec 2011
The origins of the challenge are the crisis in the eurozone, the catastrophic loss of market confidence in the debts of European nations that has raised doubts about the single greatest achievement of the EU, the single currency.
Since its inception, the European project has been based on a partnership between France and Germany, the two old enemies “shaking hands over the graves of Verdun” as a Frankfurt newspaper once put it.
This has never been a partnership of equals: Germany’s economic heft has always exceeded that of France, but France has compensated with more assertive diplomacy. That formula worked for decades, as Germany quietly accepted a situation that effectively saw German taxpayers underwriting French politicians’ ambitions.
The recent crisis has ended the illusion of parity. Germany, its public finances robust and its growth solid, is the only European economy with the clout to rescue struggling southern nations. That economic fact has had political consequences.
Talk of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy merging into a single entity known as Merkozy ignores the fact that the German chancellor has the upper hand and the French have not always been able to get their way.