Europe

Monday, July 13, 2015 - 08:48

France Watch: Hollande Emerges As Victor in Greece Talks


By Jack Duffy

PARIS (MNI) - While European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday that were "no winners and no losers" in the marathon Greek deal talks over the week, one clear political victor was French President Francois Hollande.

Amid what appeared to be open conflict between France and Germany over demands that could have pushed Greece out of the euro for five years or more, Hollande succeeded in getting the 'temporary Grexit' option off the table and convincing Berlin and its hard-line allies that a deal was in everyone's interest.

"He is coming back from Brussels with a political victory," the French television channel TF1 said, noting that it will be stronger Francois Hollande who gives the traditional July 14 Bastille Day address to the nation on Tuesday.

Less than two years before the next presidential election, Hollande is struggling to recover from the lowest poll ratings for a modern French president. The poor ratings were due largely to a moribund economy during the first three years of his term and to the broad perception that he was an unequal junior partner to Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

But according to French media reports, comparisons between France and Germany and their positions on Greece were bound to start painting Hollande in a much more favorable light.

"The fist-fight around Greece revealed the existence of two Europes, each with its own completely different logic," the French daily Le Figaro said Monday. "One is German, accounting-based and intransigent. The other is French, political and accommodating."

Looking sprightly on Monday morning after the all-night negotiations, Hollande said that whatever disagreements had occurred in the talks would quickly be forgotten because of the resulting deal would keep the Eurozone intact.

"The credibility of the Eurozone would have been affected if we had not reached a deal," Hollande told journalists in Brussels. "But the deal is there. France has played its role and it is Europe that is the winner," he said.

European officials, while confirming that France and Germany each led opposing camps during much of the talks, downplayed reports of a serious rupture between Paris and Berlin.

"There was no tearing," in the French-German bond, said EU economic and monetary affairs chief Pierre Moscovici. "France and Germany can have different appreciations and distinct positions on Greece but there is still always a willingness to work together."

Hollande's support for Athens is also expected to help solidify his support on the left wing of his Socialist Party, which had fractured over his shift to business-friendly economic policies. France's Assemblee Nationale is therefore expected to approve the Greece accord by a wide margin when it votes on Wednesday.

--MNI Paris Bureau; tel: +33 1-42-71-55-41; email: jduffy@mni-news.com

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