Italian ex-PM Mario Monti broke out his diagnostics kit and pronounced that Europe’s real problem is (drumroll, please!) France, not Italy. In an interview given ahead of the expected triumph of Marine Le Pen’s Front National in the polls—a triumph that didn’t fully materialize over the weekend—Monti is particularly glum. A few notable pronouncements:
“In the last few years we have seen France receding in terms of actual economic performance, in terms of complying with all the European rules, and above all in terms of its domestic public opinion – which is turning more and more against Europe,” he told The Telegraph.
France’s strained relationship with Brussels has been borne out through its persistent defiance of EU budget targets and the rise of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National party,
“France is the big problem of the European Union because the whole construct has been leveraged on the foundation of a solid Franco-German entente. If it isn’t there then there is a poor destiny for Europe,” said Mr Monti. “We’ve seen that the strong axis is no longer so strong.” […]“I’m always struck when I participate in debates in France – even the elite is so uneasy about the governance of the eurozone.”“I would not be surprised to hear this tone in Athens or in Lisbon, but I’m very surprised to hear this in Paris.”
This is a very acute analysis. Wags might scoff at the irony of an Italian telling the French to get their act together, but warnings like these, especially coming from a member of the European elite, are worth paying heed to. They give you a sense of the unease coursing through the veins of the European body politic.