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France-Germany: the cousins ​​we love to hate

August 22 category:Economy
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France-Germany: the cousins ​​we love to hate

Bruno Le Maire, UMP deputy from the Eure, former Agriculture Minister and Secretary of State for European Affairs alongside Georges Valance, former managing editor of L'Expansion.

© Jérôme Chatin / L'Expansion

In 1914, there is already an economic imbalance between France and Germany, in favor of the latter, which doubles course of a territorial dispute. Do you see similarities with the current situation?

Georges Valance. I remember a lunch with one of the big bosses of Commerzbank in 1988, in which I asked him his opinion on a possible reunification of Germany. He held me this amazing language casually: "In 1914, France weighed almost half as much as Germany once met, Germany will regain its pre-1914 position and relegate France to a lower rank.."

He was "mathematically" reason: France now finds itself in a situation similar to that drop from 1914 on many levels. Now, in the history of both countries, periods of territorial imbalances, military, demographic or economic have always created bitterness between the two peoples, which ferment Germanophobia or Gallophobia.

Bruno Le Maire. A look at the long history of the two countries rivalry periods are the norm, and friendship phases, the exception. The antinomy is based on profound differences: the French and Germans have very different conceptions of the state, nation, language and also the economy. Reasoning reason of Germany against French universalism, this reflects the classic, and this difference is an economic translation today.

Basically, in 1914, Germany dominated territorially and militarily; today it clearly takes precedence over the economic field. In 1914, this imbalance has produced war; in 2014, it may spell the end of the European project. For France, the solution is to re-level economically. And not to pay in about Germanophobe.

Exactly, how about the French again become Germanophobe?

GV The reality is more complex. In France, public opinion does not seem Germanophobe - at worst, it is "German-indifferent." This is the political elite that multiplies about aggressive. Because it sees the success of Germany reflects his own failure. In southern Europe, it is quite the opposite, people make responsible Merkel austerity policies that bully.

BLM For several months, it is the elites that multiply the left about anti-German. The Minister Arnaud Montebourg has he not compared Angela Merkel in Bismarck? The President of the Assembly, Claude Bartolone, is it not called for a confrontation with our partners across the Rhine? Right remains steeped in the memory of Charles de Gaulle-torque Konrad Adenauer. The left, she broke the high embankment by François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl.

Basically, the drop compared to Germany he can not explain the feeling of French decline?

If GV, but in the story that feeling of decline could also be an engine. In 1870, the "Great Nation", overcome by the small Prussia, saw the defeat as a huge humiliation. Of course, with a vengeful afterthought, she will then get to school the winner in areas where he excelled - philosophy, sociology, the study of languages, science, applied research, etc. The open French engineering schools to compete with German industry, officers learn the language of Goethe as the young Charles de Gaulle in Saint-Cyr.

Does this mean that we should copy the German model?

BLM No! We do not have to adopt the German model, but to reform our own model. The situation of women at work in Germany is not enviable, nor the situation of employees in mini-jobs. Therefore focus our efforts on rebuilding our economic and social model, which is out of breath. To produce better and cheaper, it must go through a triple down: that of labor costs, the taxes and the public expenditure.

If economic differences between France and Germany continue, European integration will remain stalled. The economies of the convergence objective thus forcing the French to undertake radical reforms long overdue. But it also forces the Germans to drive economic success over collectively. As Minister, I sometimes went to the confrontation with Berlin, for example for charities such as heart Eating retain European funding.

GV Are the Germans willing to "Frenchified" their Labour Code? This is doubtful. Their wage policy always makes more competitive by allowing them to combine the advantages of an economy with the most advanced and paying salaries worthy of emerging technology in many sectors.

You make economic convergence between the two countries a condition to build Europe, but the Germans do not tend to play the world?

GV Indeed, Germany, identifying with the growth of its economy, is seeking partners worldwide. The Germans think less Europe, and for them France became increasingly a country like any other.

BLM And why France does not she play also the world? It has the advantages and the ability to do so. Moreover, what have we proposed again for years in European integration? What major initiatives have we made? It is time to redefine our national project and our European vision.

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