• France's news in English

French attacks on Merkel up heat on Hollande

AFP · 28 Apr 2013, 09:15

Published: 28 Apr 2013 09:15 GMT+02:00

In a document on Europe released on Friday, Hollande's Socialist Party pilloried Merkel for what they said was a "selfish" insistence on austerity as the solution to Europe's three-year-old debt crisis.

The document also accused conservative Merkel, who faces elections on September 22nd, of being obsessed with "Berlin's trade balance and her electoral future".

While also championing measures to boost the eurozone's ailing economy and create jobs, Merkel has stressed the importance of first slashing debt and implementing structural reforms.

Hollande came to power a year ago vowing to reverse this course and place the focus squarely on breathing life back into the 17-nation zone but critics say he has failed to stand up to Merkel, Europe's paymaster and political powerhouse.

The French president, at a new low in the polls after a torrid few weeks domestically, has called for a "friendly tension" with Merkel but other urged him to go further.

"For me, it should be just tension and confrontation if that's what it takes," said Claude Bartolone, the president of France's lower house of parliament, in an interview with the Le Monde daily on Thursday.

And the Socialists' attack has re-encouraged those who believe a focus on austerity is holding Europe back in tackling the crisis.

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, who hails from Germany's opposition Social Democrats, said: "On a national level, we have gone much too far with austerity policies."

"The argument that investor confidence will return with the reduction of public deficits is undoubtedly false," he told Belgian daily L'Echo.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo echoed the thought, telling the La Libre Belgique daily that things had "evolved" and it was time to change course.

"Listen to the IMF, the OECD ... what do they say? That the policies of austerity have to stop, the eurozone being the worst off in the world in terms of (economic) recovery," added Di Rupo.

European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso said earlier in the week a "new narrative" was needed that could "unite citizens and come up with a new vision."

But Berlin appeared to be standing firm, with the finance ministry insisting Europe "stay the course" on repairing public finances.

Sources close to Hollande said that "one cannot flip the tables in one go" and that "subtle" changes were needed to "re-orient" the debate.

But the Socialists' undiplomatic broadside at Merkel and her economic policy will do little to improve ties between France and Germany, seen as the driving force behind European integration.

After talks with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, former French prime minister Francois Fillon said on Friday relations between Paris and Berlin had "rarely been as bad".

He added that political forces in Germany were "worried about the risk of seeing France tempted by an anti-German policy."

Political scientist Thomas Klau, from the European Council on Foreign Relations, said "mutual incomprehension" had broken out between the parties governing the two key powers.

"There is a growing irritation in Paris over what is seen as a refusal (in Berlin) to see the extreme economic, social and political emergency faced by the countries in the south of the eurozone," Klau told AFP.

Conversely, in Berlin, "there is the impression that the political majority in France hasn't realised how urgent it is to tackle economic and structural reforms," added the expert.

Others said the tension must stop. Michel Barnier, France's representative on the European Commission and a member of the centre-right UMP party opposition, judged the attacks "non-sensical."

"No end to Europe's crisis possible without constructive cooperation between France (and) Germany," he wrote on microblogging site Twitter.

"Let's look at what is working in Germany rather than criticise it," he urged.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French hotel industry to 'go hard' after Airbnb
The rise of Airbnb has angered the French hotel industry who say the game is no longer fair. Photo: AFP

French hotel industry to 'go hard' after Airbnb

35 minutes ago

The head of France's hoteliers union (UMIH) has fired a warning to Airbnb telling The Local that the suffering hotel industry will "go hard" after the room sharing website in a bid to level out "unfair competition".

Education in France
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Students in Lyon. Photo: AFP

The troubles with French universities laid bare

1 hour ago

Classrooms overflowing, a serious lack of funding, and a flailing reputation abroad... what exactly is wrong with France's university system? The Local's Oliver Gee takes a closer look.

France's Muslim men suffer CV discrimination
Muslim men were much less likely to get called in compared to Catholic men. Photo: Nguyen Vu Hung/Flickr

France's Muslim men suffer CV discrimination

2 hours ago

A practising Muslim man is four times less likely to get a job interview in France than a Catholic counterpart, according to a study published on Thursday.

France hits Isis targets in Syria a second time
A file image of Rafale jets. Photo: AFP

France hits Isis targets in Syria a second time

4 hours ago

French warplanes carried out a second wave of strikes overnight on Islamic State targets in Syria, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday.

Video emerges of French train hero's stabbing
CCTV footage shows Stone fighting several men in Sacramento. Photo: YouTube/Screenshot

Video emerges of French train hero's stabbing

21 hours ago

VIDEO: Spencer Stone, one of the three Americans who helped foil a terror attack on a French train, is in hospital in California after he was stabbed while apparently coming to a woman's rescue. A CCTV video has emerged of the stabbing.

France pays ex-convict over smoking cell mates
Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/Flickr

France pays ex-convict over smoking cell mates

5 hours ago

An ex-prisoner in France has successfully sued the state for placing him in a cell with smokers, a court in the northwestern town of Caen said on Thursday.

France adopts bill to keep minors from jihad
Around 500 French nationals are thought to be in Syria or Iraq. Photo: AFP

France adopts bill to keep minors from jihad

5 hours ago

French lawmakers adopted a draft law Thursday that will require minors to have permission from their parents or legal guardians before leaving the country in a bid to curb departures for jihad in Iraq or Syria.

Strike sees rubbish pile up on Paris streets
Rubbish piles up in front of a Parisian doorway. Photo: Patrick Auzou/Twitter

Strike sees rubbish pile up on Paris streets

21 hours ago

Around 3,000 tonnes of (extra) rubbish have accumulated on the streets of Paris as a strike by the city's rubbish collectors enters its fourth day.

France set to slaughter Alps mountain goats
Hundreds of Ibex or Bouquetin are set to be slaughtered in the Alps; Photo: AFP

France set to slaughter Alps mountain goats

21 hours ago

Wildlife groups have been angered by plans to cull hundreds of wild mountain goats in the Haut-Savoie region of the French Alps. But authorities insist they have the action is justified.

France is the future, says boss of US tech giant
France's Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron with Cisco chief John Chambers. Photo: AFP

France is the future, says boss of US tech giant

22 hours ago

France and its Socialist government have been given a ringing endorsement from the boss of an American multinational, who believes the country is about to profoundly change. Air France executives might not agree, however.

How to find a graduate job in France
The pro-women French TV ad that was axed because it was too sexist
The secret to more travel for less
French bakers in trouble with the law for... working too often
What's on in France: Ten great things to do in October
French car makes it from Paris to Bordeaux... without a driver
This pic was enough to see a French beauty queen stripped of her crown
Analysis & Opinion
Opinion: Tearing suits of Air France execs isn't great for France's image
Opinion: France should follow UK and teach drivers not punish them
Paris: See how rundown Gare du Nord became one big disco
When angry French workers target their bosses (and it pays off)
French Riviera floods: Marineland park left under sea of mud
IN PICTURES: French Riviera ravaged by 'apocalyptic' floods
Looters arrested after deadly floods strike southern France
Eight top vegetarian restaurants in France
Indecent exposure: French cops drop trousers at British war memorial
Please France can we just have one emergency phone number
French study: Passive smoking likely to cause kids behavioural problems
Here are 12 reasons why it's worth staying in France
Locals shocked as Nazi banner unfurled in Nice
Burger King to swallow up Quick in France then take on 'McDo'
OPINION: France's jobless benefit system shouldn't be derided
A Day Without Cars: The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down
jobs available