How much leeway for concessions to yellow vests?

Macron's concessions to the yellow vest protesters are set to cost eight to ten billion euros per year, according to the French government. Although the danger exists that France could exceed the deficit limit set by the EU, Brussels has sent nothing but positive signals. Some commentators are incensed that the French can apparently pick and choose precisely what suits them best.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A two-faced EU

EU Commissioner for economic affairs Pierre Moscovici has allowed France to exceed the deficit limit in order to pay for the concessions to the yellow vests. Clearly he is applying double standards, writes columnist Massimo Franco in Corriere della Sera:

“With his statement he has revived the distrust of the openly populist Italian government vis-à-vis Brussels institutions. Moscovici has revealed himself to be reprehensibly two-faced: lenient regarding the measures announced by Macron, which are the result not of a democratic vote but of violent protests; strict regarding an Italy which, notwithstanding its many shortcomings, has proven that it is able to exercise self-restraint.”

Denník N (SK) /

French simply unwilling to reform

The demonstrators in France simply want to maintain their comfortable but illusory lifestyle, says Dennik N:

“The French social welfare state will, like any other state, collapse if the subsidies continue to rise while the number of those who contribute to the budget sinks. Macron recognised this - as did his predecessors. As a newcomer he had the chance to change it. But he presented his plan to the people in the hope that they wouldn't read the small print. The demonstrators want an end to the reforms, a return to the old order, even more state benefits from the state, higher social-security payments, more employment protection. As usual without asking what will happen if the economy isn't reformed.”

La Stampa (IT) /

No preferential treatment for Paris

Now Rome won't be the only deficit sinner any more, observes diplomat Stefano Stefanini in La Stampa, and examines the reaction from Brussels:

“If the EU Commission takes Rome to task it must do the same with Paris. But the real wake-up call for the EU, Berlin and the Hanseatic pro-austerity front consists in the fact that the destruction of the fiscal protective barrier is a consequence of populist impulses: in Italy in the governmental palace, in France on the streets and on town squares. ... The EU certainly can't afford double standards now. ... Any decision that is made for Italy will set a precedent from which it cannot deviate - and that goes for Paris too.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Not comparable to Italy

Despite Macron's concessions France's finances are in a much better state than Italy's, the Financial Times points out:

“Now Rome can point to Paris and ask for leniency. ... Brussels is taking action against Rome because of its failure to meet debt reduction targets, not the deficit breach. France's situation, moreover, is different from Italy's. Mr Macron's spending splurge looks like a one-off. Its debt, at 97 per cent of GDP, is more sustainable than Italy's, at 132 per cent. Its underlying growth rate is higher. France pays about 50 basis points more than Germany to borrow for 10 years. The Italian penalty is five times higher.”

Causeur (FR) /

Macron could stand up to Berlin

While nothing points to Macron seeking confrontation with Berlin over deficit limits this cannot be ruled out, blogger David Desgouilles comments in Causeur:

“Such a confrontation would be the very antithesis of his modus operandi to date. Since the start of his mandate his method has been clear: give the Germans orthodox guarantees in order to secure a new euro policy. … If he is preparing a confrontation, however, which the already very critical German press seemed to believe on Monday, he would be doing something that neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor François Hollande dared to do. And he would be responding in part to the desire for solidarity expressed in the last weeks on France's motorways [by the yellow vest demonstrators].”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

A weak France can't reform the EU

The tactical withdrawal of the French president could be painful for the EU as a whole, Ukrayinska Pravda fears:

“His ideological failure at the national level is translating into a loss of trust in his proposals at the European level. And his inability to fulfil the EU's financial criteria, which considering the high level of proposed spending and the inevitable deceleration of the reform process seems very likely, weakens France's position on the threshold of a year that will be decisive for the future of the EU. ... Therefore Macron has taken an extremely risky step, and the stakes are higher than ever. However, we are not mere onlookers in this crazy gamble. Macron's defeat could mean defeat for all Europe.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Promising vision for Europe shattered

An optimistic vision for Europe has failed now that Macron has bowed to the pressure, Die Presse also concludes:

“France won't be reformed, no matter how much energy and resolve is behind the attempt. This is far more than an internal French problem at which we can shake our heads in amusement. A financially solid France with lower unemployment and competitive companies: for Macron that was just the foundation for a bigger undertaking. ... This hope is lost now. ... So the final objective of Macron's hope-filled vision must be buried prematurely. A more united Europe should get over the pain of the divorce from the British and hold up the banner of its values and goals even higher: liberal democracy, international institutions, the fight against climate change.”