French President Francois Hollande’s governing Socialist Party has delivered a blistering assault on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of causing the single-currency crisis that has been tearing Europe apart for more than three years, of acting selfishly and intransigently in her own political and German national interest, and demanding a “showdown” with the “chancellor of austerity.”
The French socialists’ criticisms, in a draft paper on party policy on Europe ahead of a conference in June, came as Spain dramatically shifted its commitment to austerity. Spain set a far higher budget deficit target for this year, while admitting that the country’s chronic unemployment would stay above 25 percent for the next four years.
The new budget deficit target, increased from 4.5 percent to 6.3 percent, means Spain only has to reduce spending by 0.8 percent of GDP this year. Greater realism about its recession saw the government admit the economy would shrink by a further 1.3 percent this year.
The Spanish government has put back the target of reaching the Brussels-mandated deficit level of less than 3 percent until 2016, a move that will see public debt grow to 100 percent of GDP.
The French draft paper contends that Europe is being run by a rightwing Anglo-German cabal, dominated by liberal free-trade interests with the rest of the world and austerity within the EU. It calls into question the Franco-German alliance at the heart of the EU and argues that France alone of the big EU countries has a government that is genuinely pro-European.
Merkel, as well as Hollande’s predecessor, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister David Cameron come in for severe criticism. Merkel and Sarkozy, the draft says, managed to turn a small crisis in Greece more than three years ago into a European disaster.
The 21-page draft was leaked to Le Monde, which said it had the tacit support of Hollande’s government.
It said: “The [EU] community project is now scarred by an alliance of convenience between the Thatcherite accents of the current British prime minister — who sees Europe only as a la carte and about rebates — and the selfish intransigence of Chancellor Merkel, who thinks of nothing else but the savings of depositors in Germany, the trade balance recorded in Berlin and her electoral future.”
The document also calls bluntly for an end to austerity as the main response to the debt and currency crisis, accuses the political right dominating EU politics as being focused on “deregulation, deindustrialization and disintegration.”
Spain’s move to ease its deficit burden was praised by the European commission in Brussels in what is a clear sign that it, too, has radically changed its previously hawkish insistence on harsh austerity.
It said in a statement: “The postponement of the correction of the excessive deficit [to below 3 percent of GDP] to 2016 is consistent with the current technical analysis.”