The time to save the euro is running out, but there is one tentative flicker of hope beaming over the stormy scene: Germany and France seem to be working together again.After Chancellor Merkel supported Sarkozy against Hollande in the French presidential race, relations between the two countries that historically run Europe were strained. But according to the Financial Times, the big two of Europe are back together:
Two months after a tense EU Summit in which Mr Hollande championed growth as an alternative to Ms Merkel’s mantra of austerity, the countries’ finance ministers on Monday announced a working group that would seek to forge joint positions ahead of meetings of EU finance ministers and summits of European leaders.After hosting his French counterpart Pierre Moscovici in Berlin, Wolfgang Schäuble, German finance minister, said they had agreed to form the group to work on European banking union, fiscal integration, and growth and competitiveness issues.
This is depressing news for countries like Spain, Italy, the UK, and Poland, which hoped to take advantage of Franco-German discord to increase their own influence over European policy. But it could be a good sign for Europe as a whole. Only strong leadership can address the euro crisis. In Europe, that leadership historically comes when France and Germany are on the same page.Franco-German cooperation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Europe to address its current problems. That the two countries are working together is good. But it is far from clear that they will emerge with a workable answer for the biggest crisis in Europe in a generation. Germany and France have very different national interests, political cultures and economic instincts. Coordination between them is always hard and, arguably, one reason for Europe’s present difficulties is that the necessity for compromise between Paris and Berlin means that Europe can only proceed by half measures and baby steps at a time when something more radical is needed.All that is true, and we don’t think Europe is anywhere near out of the woods. But nothing is possible without Merkel and Hollande working together. They seem to be trying, and that, so far as it goes, is good news.