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La Belle France
Which Country Is Europe’s Biggest Problem?

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.

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  • JR

    Well, the plan after WW2 was to spend all the money earmarked for defense towards paying off citizenry. It’s kind of like living off credit cards and paying monthly minimum. Sure it’s fun while it lasts. But at some point, the balloon payment becomes due and well…. Holiday from history is OVAH…. The row with Greece, problem with radical Islam, rise of far-right and far-left parties are just signs of things going back to the way they were and have always been.

    • Pete

      Well said.

    • Corlyss

      Pithy, pointed, and excellent analysis. I would have taken much longer to say it and ended up in the same place.

    • Andrew Allison

      I’d agree with all but the first sentence. The unaffordable social spending (more accurately, voter bribery) cancer which has eaten the heart out of Europe (and, incidentally, the US) has been gradual.

  • Andrew Allison

    Monti is whistling past the graveyard. Neither country is producing enough to pay its bills, but Italy is worse-off than France.

  • Corlyss

    I doubt Monti’s view will sweep the EU, but it does make one ask “When everyone breaks the rules and everyone avoids the consequences, what exactly remains of the grand bargain except power-mad bureaucracies in Brussels, beavering away at their agenda (eternal permanence)?”

    • Andrew Allison

      You’ve nailed it!

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