Win-win moment in Europe takes edge off summer of gloomy predictions
Ugly eurozone-crisis dynamics threaten to make it a summer of social unrest. But Spain's Euro2012 win and Germany's agreement on a European rescue fund have shifted the tone.
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France faces cuts
In France, Mr. Hollande, fresh from coordinating a good-vibe “growth pact” for the EU last week, and from bringing a fundamental new shift in European dynamics by backing Italian Prime Minister Monti’s plan to avert collapse – now himself must make heavy austerity cuts at home, and find some $12 billion in new revenue.
Hollande won the French presidency, and his Socialist Party won both houses of parliament in late spring on a rally cry of “growth.”
But it has been long understood in the Elysees Palace that cuts were needed to avert the very kind of market disruptions that sent Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and now Spain and Italy into uncharted waters.
Since 2010, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal have taken some $240 billion in bailout funds, and French debt-to GDP rates are at a worrying figure of near 90 percent.
Knowledgeable French sources say Hollande will achieve much of this goal by not replacing civil servants and government employees. Some 24 percent of French working population is paid by the state, and Hollande will reportedly not replace a quarter of those retiring.
A previous plan by former president Nicolas Sarkozy would have avoided replacing 1 of 2 retirees. Hollande hopes to split the difference, with the exception of the teaching and police ranks.
Hollande emerged from his first EU summit with some success toward a growth policy and a sense that he had politically moved toward “rebalancing” Europe by aligning with Italy and Spain against the austerity orthodoxy of Germany that has set the pathway and solutions for Europe during two years of debt and banking crisis.
The “win-win” in Brussels for Merkel is that she averted the hated idea of mutual or common debt in Europe that would be symbolized by issuing euro bonds; Merkel also kept direct supervision of banking rules.
Der Spiegel opined on the weekend that Merkel managed to sell Hollande a growth pact that mainly relied on unused EU project funds and “won’t cost Germany a cent.”
Speaking of the measured uptick in spirit, Cedric Thellier, a eurozone specialist at Natixis in Paris, comments that, "I don't know if this positive feeling will hold … all summer long because you have to get a concrete follow up. But this…seems a more positive summit that the previous ones for Europe… because of the consensus… and the breakthrough. France gave up some ground on the eurobonds and Germany did the same with the banking union, provided it is controlled by a trusted supervisor like the ECB [European Central Bank].”