Monday, November 19, 2007

Mistral on France's Image


Jacques Mistral writes at Telos about the way in which French criticism of the European Central Bank is seen outside France, especially in light of the judgment abroad that the French have been particularly lax about reducing government spending and applying necessary economic discipline.

Movement

There seems to be movement at last on the strike front. Even SUD-Rail, the most intransigent of the unions, is ready to come to the bargaining table. The economic cost of the strike thus far has been considerable: one estimate puts the loss to the economy at 100 million euros. Nevertheless, the government and the SNCF have made it clear that they stand ready to pay the unions to compromise. Xavier Bertrand announced an interesting ploy: he said the government would send a representative to the negotiations, as the unions are insisting, only if "service improves" today and tomorrow. The unions had insisted that negotiations not be conditioned on a resumption of work, so this is a compromise position: not all workers have to return, but service must improve. Since participation was dropping rapidly anyway, the condition will be met, most likely, without any actual concession by anyone. The wisdom of Solomon.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy's approval rating has dropped to 51 percent, the first time it has dipped below his election score. You can expect that to change quickly if the strike is successfully resolved by Wednesday. But "stop the strike" demonstrations in Paris and elsewhere turned out impressive numbers of marchers. Meanwhile, my friends in Paris ride the Vélib' or walk.