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Friday, January 21, 2011

Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus

Lofty plans for aligning France's and Germany's economic policies are nothing new. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is particularly excited about the idea.

But what do people in both countries think of the prospect of becoming more like eachother? Today's Le Monde features a new survey carried out by French Institute IFOP on behalf of a German and a French think-tank.

It gives an answer that Sarko - and a big chunk of the EU elite - probably don't want to hear. According to the poll, only 18% of Germans think that their country should consider France its "privileged partner". On their part, only 31% of French think Germany should be considered the same.

And there's more. Only 44% of Germans agree that their country should coordinate more of its economic policies with other eurozone countries, compared to 65% of the French. Unsurprisingly, French and Germans aren't exactly on the same wavelength when it comes to the role of the ECB. 69% of Germans say that the ECB should focus its efforts on "combating inflation and price increases", while 51% of French think that it should act to "spur economic growth". That discrepancy goes to the very heart of the eurozone's problems (one-size-doesn't-fit-all).

In other words, not a good place to start for two countries which are trying to show the eurozone that greater harmonisation of economic policies is both achievable and desirable...

We can't help but to recall what French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde recently said on BBC Newsnight. When asked whether people had ever voted in favour of greater harmonisation of economic policies in the eurozone, she replied:
The European project has been around for over fifty years and it was built on the back of a situation where people were at war […] The European project is something we all believe in because we want peace to be maintained.
Eh, was that really the question?

Instead of reverting back to their default Kum-bay-ya mode when faced with economic and democratic reality, Lagarde and the others would do well in pondering these poll results. After all, reality will catch up with them sooner or later.

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