Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hollande Criticizes Greek Austerity Plan

François Hollande, buoyed by his success thus far in establishing himself as the frontrunner, has shed a bit of his caution and taken an important stand on a major issue, which is likely to become a defining focus of the campaign. He says that the austerity measures imposed on Greece by "the Troika" are too severe, and that, in addition to Greek governance failures, there was also a "failure of European governance."

This is a somewhat risky but important move. Risky, because it opens the Socialist candidate up to attacks that he is undermining a complex and delicate European consensus on this vital issue. Important, because it is not only the right position on the merits--Greek austerity will prove counterproductive in the coming months as it already has--but also reinforces Hollande's previous cautious statements about "renegotiating" the European agreement if he is elected. It will serve to alleviate French fears that draconian austerity will next be coming to France, along with the attendant disorders that have been much in evidence in televised scenes of the Athens riots. And this is an important move for Hollande, too, because it comes on the heels of a Moody's announcement that France is on its watch list and may soon be downgraded. Hollande is refusing to be cowed and is not saying that "le gouvernement ne peut pas tout," even though it can't: he is a candidate, after all, not yet an élu. The cold shower is for later. For now, it's time to fire up the troops and show some backbone.

It will be interesting to see the candidates debate this issue face-to-face.

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