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Gale warning over the Franco-German relationship

It seems that France and Germany agree less and less on the economic policy to undertake to put an end to the crisis. It is not the first time, nor the last, but now the wind is blowing us towards inhospitable shores.

In the country of Colbert and Napoleon and also that of Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand, we think that all instruments have to serve their purpose, including the monetary tool, that public power always structures economic activity and to be frank, we spare no expense, which is often forgiven because of our past glory. Our German cousins greatly mistrust the monopoly of power, and federalism likewise the freedom of those involved are virtues to be promoted; this is made possible thanks to a rare collective awareness and a taste for long-term stability, which is a real advantage in a fastmoving globalised world.

In the crisis all kinds of feelings have resurfaced finding support in old, persistent clichés that have not faded with time. Some are blamed for their austerity and their conservatism. Others are accused of their indiscipline and their hesitation in rising to the challenge. This is a splendid step backwards when we think that it was precisely to avoid this type of commonplace that for the past fifty years a special relationship has been built up together with its codes, practices and a great deal of restraint!

The Franco-German couple means a commitment to permanent dialogue at all levels in view of drafting a joint approach to contested ideas, or even a compromise which is acceptable to our other European partners. No progress has been made in Europe without this prior effort. However the Union's situation demands response, firstly on the social and economic levels and possibly on the political level as well. No one can afford to be satisfied with the status quo.

However by seeking "confrontation with the European conservatives" and notably with Angela Merkel, "the Chancellor of Austerity", the French Socialists could not have chosen a worse approach.

Firstly because the right economic policy for Europe is the focus of controversy and no one really knows what should be done. Economists are arguing, experts are encountering hurdles, politicians are divided.Everyone is aware of the drama of the countries in difficulty and of the rise in unemployment, but everyone knows that we have to stop deficits and the accumulation of debt.

It is also because the ideological interpretation of divergence is not, as it happens, correct. If the Social Democrats were in government in Germany they would be even stricter, especially if Peer Steinbruck were in office ....  and we didn't know that Mario Monti was a "conservative" from the far right!

Finally it is because intimating that we can "reduce deficits without austerity" is probably the biggest lie of all of those that have been criticised in the public arena!

The only way to "re-orient" Europe, is to strengthen Franco-German entente, to open up true debate between these two partners over the future of the Union. We would then see that by putting our analysis and thoughts into order a great deal is possible when the French and Germans decide to get along with one another.

A more vigorous monetary policy, more effective European spending, consolidated debts and mutually respected discipline, democratic progress by the European institutions, the true revival of an innovative community? No subject is really taboo on either side if they finally agreed to decide together.

Again do we have to accept addressing these issues from the top and therefore not exclude the changes we need to make to Europe, even if they mean greater integration in the economic, budgetary and fiscal areas. Otherwise by feeding populism, by approving caricatures, and by running the risk of isolation, both sides may encounter a dead-end.

However history will be the judge.

We have to fight off the winds of demagogy, clew up the sails and make sure, in other words, assume, that we can sail together whatever the demands that are made. Tacking together towards calmer waters.