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European leaders seek consensus for Greek bailout
This week has been quite eventful, especially in world financial markets as the Greek sovereign debt crisis has continued. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Friday in Paris, after meeting with European Council head Herman Van Rompuy in Warsaw.
As this article went to press, an expansion of the bailout fund for the Eurozone looks increasingly likely. Only Malta, the Netherlands and Slovakia (either Oct 11 or Oct 24) are left to vote on the issue of raising the resources of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) from 240€ billion to 440€ billion. But protests are continuing in Greece over increased austerity measures such as a new property tax.
Indeed, austerity is a hard pill to swallow for many Greeks, as for other countries such as Spain that have been constrained to cut back on expenses in order to reduce their sovereign debt levels and improve their market credibility and the viability of government bonds on the markets.
Sarkozy said he would soon announce a joint Franco-German strategy, saying that Greece is committed to the austerity measures and “determined” to meet its responsibilities (as reported by Le Figaro). He also said that Europe has a “moral obligation” to support Greece. (You can see in this video in French). Also, this piece on France 24 mentions whether or not Greece can learn from the lessons of the Argentina debt crisis.
The BBC has an excellent look into Europe’s “four big dilemmas”. Le Figaro also has a special section on the debt crisis, not just focusing on Europe. French financial and business daily Les Echos explains the “next decisive steps” for Europe. And lastly, true to form, The Economist has a brilliant look into the Euro crisis.
French Socialist debates continue
Meanwhile, the French Socialist Party (PS) continues with its party primaries and televised debates, meant to help the party choose the candidate with the best chance to win in the general election in spring 2012 (April 22nd and May 6th in two rounds). Le Figaro has a special subject area on this, as does left-leaning Libération. The vote will take place October 9th, and October 16th for a second round in case no one receives at least 50% of the initial vote.
The debates have been dominating TV attention, so the rival center-right party UMP has been frustrated with the special “communications operation” that the primary seems to be, according to several UMP members. UMP politician Charles de La Verpillière stated that the debates were actually perhaps in favor of the UMP, as the PS candidates have not been addressing the two most essential issues: competition and debt.
But as this analyst says, the two leading party candidates, Martine Aubry and François Hollande, must be more decisive and critical of one another in order to advance towards one final candidate. He says “it’s time to act”.
Despite Sarkozy’s low approval ratings, Prime Minister François Fillon remains convinced that Sarkozy is the best candidate for the French Right and does not see the need to rely on someone else. This was after Foreign Minister Alain Juppé hinted that he would be open to being a candidate in case Sarkozy did not participate in the elections.
Perhaps Sarkozy’s knowledge of flowers won the heart of Carla Bruni, but it certainly will not help him win the election. The economy must improve, unemployment must decrease…but even then there is a real risk that he could lose the election.
New Islamic center in Paris
In other news, France announced the construction of a new Islamic center in Paris. This is welcomed news for France’s estimated 5 million-strong Muslim population (estimation since the census does not take religious confession into account). However, there seems to be a far-right backlash against immigrants and French citizens with different ethnic backgrounds. This was perhaps exacerbated by a recent French ban of Muslims worshipping in the street. This law reflects France’s strict separation of church and state but on a practical level poses some problems for overcrowded mosques, as before the law was passed people could pray on the sidewalks in the city. The debate will continue, just as it has in the US.
Autolib’ launches in Paris
Finally, Autolib’ (a public car sharing system) launches the weekend of October 1 in Paris in a limited number of stations, with completion of some 1200 stations set for spring 2012. It is modeled on the public bike rental system Vélib’ and includes electric cars that are fully recharged at each station.
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