Paris given more time to economise
The EU Commission on Wednesday reached its decision on the budgets of the member states. France will have until 2017 to deal with its problems, but still faces deficit proceedins, while Italy and Belgium have avoided such proceedings. Finally the EU has distanced itself from the strict austerity policy, some commentators write in approval. Others criticise Europe for double standards regarding crisis states.
Draghi sabotages stability pact
Once again the terms of the stability pact have been overtaken by the reality of the situation, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant laments: "It is not the member states but Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, who deserves credit for the fact that the euro is no longer unstable. ... In principle, however, Draghi is working against the stability pact. It was supposed to keep inflation low and the euro strong. But Draghi wants to boost inflation and weaken the euro to stimulate exports. And to that end, the ECB is even willing to purchase government debt. Now interest rates are so low that the states would be silly not to take out new loans. There is no incentive whatsoever to save. As long as the ECB pursues this policy, any disciplinary measures must come from politicians. They, however, have demonstrated again and again that this is simply beyond them. And so the stability pact is nothing but a farce."
Europe yields to Paris yet again
The European partners have not been as stringent with France as they have with other euro crisis states, the liberal daily Le Soir writes and explains why: “An important member state - or one located at the 'heart of Europe' - carries more weight than a small or 'peripheral' country. Furthermore the situation is exacerbated by the threat posed by the Front National. If the French governments (conservatives and Socialists alike) have continually put off painful measures, it's to avoid provoking either popular protests or potential supporters of the FN. And these dangers also explain why France's European partners (the EU Commission, Germany, etc.) always end up yielding. It makes you want to give Churchill's phrase a new twist: by not making the choice between reforms and the FN, France will have both reforms and the FN. And as for Europe, it has once again reinforced the unpleasant truth that it measures countries with different yardsticks."
Political pressure better than fines
The French Finance Minister Michel Sapin is to present plans for new austerity measures and reforms to the Euro Group in May. If he doesn't his colleagues in other euro states will crank up the pressure, the liberal business daily Handelsblatt predicts: "Sapin really doesn't have that many allies left in the Euro Group. Spain and Portugal have hurried ahead and even Italy is tackling its long overdue reforms with more courage than France. ... According to the Stability Pact France would have certainly had to pay the fine by now. But on this point the pact is really unrealistic. It doesn't make sense to weaken a country that is already struggling financially even more with a fine. ... The Eurozone has no choice but to maintain the pressure on the government in Paris and wade through many more laborious discussions with the French minister of finance."
Sensible reinterpretation of rigid rules
Finally the EU has stopped stubbornly insisting on the austerity policy, the liberal daily La Stampa writes commenting on the EU Commission's decision: "The ruling on our economic policy confirms that things are taking a positive turn in the Eurozone. Instead of blindly clinging to a schematic and counter-productive fiscal discipline, the country is being called on to reform. Under the original rules of the Fiscal Compact that was passed amidst fears of a debt crisis Italy would have failed - on the false grounds that its austerity policy wasn't stringent enough. Thanks to the new interpretation of the Stability Pact as revised by Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues during Italy's EU Council presidency we have been granted a reprieve - whereby the right has been reserved to reprimand the country in a sensible way."