The German-Gallic Rivalry
German Finance Minister: France Needs a Troika

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble minced no words at a Brookings Institute meeting on Greece on Wednesday, saying of Greece that Germany “will not help a country if it refuses to help itself”. But he also landed a strong blow in passing on France. EU Observer reports:

He noted that in his long experience – he is 72 years old – countries never took an uncomfortable decision unless they had to. So France – which for years has been grappling with undertaking reforms – would be “happy” to have something like the troika (the trio of international creditors) to force it to take difficult decisions.

According to an Open Europe summary of a French-language AFP report, he then added “but that’s difficult. That’s democracy.”

Schäuble’s mild contempt for popular rule aside, he’s right to imply that France’s fiscal house is a mess. And it won’t be able to fix itself anytime soon under the prevailing political realities.

As we noted in January, France’s errors, both economic and political, in regard to the euro led to Germany’s taking the reins of European policy. Now Berlin has them firmly in hand, while Paris can kick and scream as much as it wants to. Even without a “troika” to oversee its recalcitrant neighbor, the Germans have managed to craft a firm economic vision and impose it on Europe. That’s likely to continue.

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