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'European axis has to be readjusted'

Published: 07 May 2012 12:21 GMT+02:00

Relations between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and now ex-President of France, Sarkozy were very close, with Merkel campaigning for her conservative brother-in-arms.

But now socialist Hollande will take his place in the spotlight of European politics after snagging 3.4 percent more of France’s votes. Merkel immediately invited him for a visit, but also flexed her political muscles, telling the press that the Germany-led European austerity programme was not up for discussion.

One of Hollande’s main election campaign points was to change the austerity pact imposing strict austerity measures on financially flailing EU member states such as Greece. He wants increased government spending to encourage economic growth.

The future of the Germany’s friendship with France is being dissected by German press, with some pushing for the two to put their differences aside in the name of the greater good.

Regional newspaper the Frankfurter Rundschau suggested that the French election had forced the German people to consider their country’s role in Europe and made them more European in the process – whether they liked it or not.

The election was so important, the paper said, that Merkel was more concerned about it than the reduction of her power at home as her Christian Democratic Union haemorrhaged votes on the same day in the state election in Schleswig Holstein.

Bavarian paper the Münchner Merkur was less diplomatic, saying that France and Greece – whose far-right party won a bucketful of seats on Sunday – had opted to bow out of the “iron austerity chancellor’s plan for Europe, without showing any alternative.”

France, the article added, had set itself on “the crazy path of socialism.” And Greece had chosen ultra-conservatism, as the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” won seven percent of the country’s votes, putting them on course for at least 20 seats in parliament.

The Darmstädter Echo echoed the Merkur’s sentiments, saying that France had declared war against Merkel and her financial policies by voting in Hollande. The axis on which Europe was spinning “has to be readjusted,” it concluded.

Over in eastern Germany, the Sächsiche Zeitung took a broader look at relations between the two leaders. It, like much of the German press, stressed the importance for Merkel and Hollande to find common ground, and that “there is enough room for compromise” between their ideas.

In the national press, Die Welt mused over how it would take some time before the future of Franco-German relations becomes clear. The vote signalled a dissolving of an unofficial coalition and that if no compromise can be found, the risk of France creating a union with southern European countries – out of sight of Germany - could become real.

Weekly magazine Der Spiegel threw Greece into the mix, suggesting the chaotic situation and the steady rise of the far-right should be reason enough for France and Germany to try particularly hard to find common ground, and work together.

“Hollande will be a difficult partner for Merkel, but he will find out that she can be difficult too,” the article said, adding that working against each other would not be a good idea for either.

Meanwhile, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung eased off Merkel and turned to Hollande himself, pointing out that it was his sheer “persistence” that pushed him to the top and that the new president would be thrown straight into the deep end - with a G8 meet-up and a NATO summit looming, Hollande has just a few days to get settled into his new role.

The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

19:09 May 7, 2012 by Englishted
@Chango Mutney

Which Socialist government was that then?

The only socialist government I know of was elected after ww2 and introduced the N.H.S. and many other truly social programs ,they worked so hard that many of the cabinet died from over work .

Since then G.B. has gone backwards and the way it is now is the result .

Well done France ,80% of people voting in G.B. you are lucky to get 30% because all parties are the same much like Germany too I'm afraid.
19:32 May 7, 2012 by Al uk
Very true Englishted (Can't comment on Germany)

Clement Attlee is the finest Prime Minister the UK has ever had!
19:59 May 7, 2012 by Reader75
Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama have both proved that the levy of higher taxes will not result in economic prosperity. Unemployment in the U.S. is now 8.1% plus another 5.9% who are so discouraged they are living on government welfare rather than look for work.

The mantra today is "tax the rich and give it to me!" The rich, my fellow Welt citizens, are mostly people who have started off low on the totem pole and reached the middle and upper classes of prosperity through hard work, frugal expeditures, and sweat equity. Have you ever been employed by a poor person? Has one of your neighbors who is barely squeeking by ever given you a job? No, you have been employed by "the rich" who are usually small business owners that have built up their businesses by self-sacrifice and employing astute business management practices. Was Bill Gates was born a billionaire? He invented a product, capitalized on it, marketed it to the world, and became very wealthy in the process. His empire started off in a garage of all places, not a fancy high-rise office building. Michael Dell, his competitor, started selling computers from his college dorm room. I'm no fan of Hollywood but look at how far Britney Spears has gone with a little bit of talent. She was certainly not "rich" before joining the Mickey Mouse Club.

Not all of us can be "rich" but we can sure work hard trying to get there and even have some fun along the way. I grew up in a welfare family living hand to mouth. Last year my tax bill was $30,000. I didn't get where I am today waiting for the government to give it to me. I have always gladly paid my taxes, on time and in full, because I still believe in the dream that economic properity can be achieved through higher education and hard work. Tax credits didn't exist when I was young and poor, and - gasp! - I still managed to go to college and get a job; in other words, I survived, because I didn't want or expect the government to support me.

If the EU keeps a steady pace of moving towards the left, it will either implode in 5-10 years and/or we will all be defending ourselves from a Hitler-like leader who promises to save the masses from themselves and their ill-chosen governments. Look how far THAT got us.
20:17 May 7, 2012 by Al uk
@That's the first time i have ever heard the words "left" and "Hitler" used together.

As for the "rich being mostly people who started low" that is utter nonsense. The few you quote maybe but the vast majority of wealth is keeped in and passed on within a few priviliged families.
22:16 May 7, 2012 by Reader75
@Al uk: That¦#39;s because Hitler wooed the left by promising the masses a redistribution of wealth and once he became Chancellor he swung hard right to consolidate his position, retain power, and subdue the masses. He also cried ¦quot;tax the rich and give to the poor,¦quot; except he neglected to tell anyone publicly that ¦quot;the rich¦quot; he planned to plunder were the Jews and the non-Germanic countries and the money for ¦quot;the poor¦quot; would actually be used to build his military to harass and conquer his neighbors.

As for ¦quot;the vast majority of wealth is keeped in and passed on within a few priviliged families,¦quot; maybe in the UK or Europe but not in the United States. Here, anyone can become a member of the 1% by either talent, invention, hard work, or a combination of all three. No one born at the bottom of the totem pole need stay there forever. Moving up in our society is not dictated by ancestral lineage.

Look at Colin Powell¦#39;s ancestral background, he may have benefited from affirmative action but the U.S. Army didn¦#39;t promote him through the ranks for doing nothing all day. Bill Clinton grew up in an Arkansas shack, he knew the value of education and look what that got him. Michelle Obama is descended from slaves. Barak Obama's ancestors were herdsmen from African villages. Johann Jakob Astor immigrated from Walldorf, Germany with the clothes on his back and in his lifetime became the richest man in America; his father was a butcher,and his ancestors were refugees from France. Oprah Winfrey was born to an unwed teenage mother.

There are millions of millionaires in the United States like these examples, unknown to most of us, quietly living their lives and fulfilling their dreams. Most of them were born here in lowly circumstances 50-75 years ago, and they achieved their wealth through hard work. They didn¦#39;t get ahead by government handouts. Our educational system is set up so that anyone can attend a community college after high school, move on to a university, graduate with a reasonable debt, pay that off in a few years, and then they¦#39;re free to move as high as they are able. You don¦#39;t need to attend Harvard, Yale, or Stanford to achieve success here. What¦#39;s wrong with today¦#39;s youth in general is that they don¦#39;t want to mop the sweat from their eyebrows or make sacrifices to get ahead, they want it handed to them on a silver platter, they want instant gratification. What they don¦#39;t understand is that governments have the capability to print money without gold as a backup, but this endless printing of money will eventually bring high inflation and high interest rates which will impede economic growth, and then they wonder what went wrong with their Great Society.
03:57 May 8, 2012 by vonSchwerin
The Münchner Merkur has it wrong. Greece did not opt for "ultra-conservatism." Yes, the far-right Golden Dawn party has entered parliament, but with only 7% of the vote. The Greek Communists won 8.5% of the vote, and the Left-wing Socialist parties (à la Die Linke) won a combined 22.9%. In general, Greek voters turned to the far left.
09:39 May 8, 2012 by catjones
What politicians say to get elected is different than what they do in office. Reality trumps all, even in France and Greece.

@Reader75...it's not 'tax the rich and give to me'; it's apply taxes fairly. If the rich create so many jobs, why is unemployment so high? Look like they've peaked out long ago.
12:28 May 8, 2012 by The Slog
The French election - indeed, most of the weekend elections - are of very little significance.

The euro cannot survive in its current form...and most European leaders show that they don't 'get' the will of the People any more -

19:03 May 9, 2012 by Hibernicus
The citadel of Capitalism, the USA, wouldn¦#39;t exist without massive public subsidies. Roosevelt¦#39;s ¦quot;New Deal¦quot; public enterprise programmes saved US capitalism after the 1929 crash. The US highways from coast-to coast were completely funded by Federal grants. Private capital contributed nothing.

More recently, State-funded investments in the internet, by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funded the discovery by Google of its own algorithm. Would there be any iPad without the state-funded innovations in computer development ,communication technologies, GPS and touch-screen display? Where would GSK and Pfizer be without the $600bn the US National Institutes of Health put into research that has led to 75% of the most innovative new drugs in the last decade?The gigantic US aircraft and military sector receives billions of public money in overpriced contracts every year while housing, education and health are starved of funding. These three sectors alone create twice as many jobs per dollar invested than the wasteful military blood-sucking vampire.

What the state did was to take on the greatest risk, before the private sector dared to enter, acting as an ¦quot;entrepreneurial¦quot; state. In biotech, venture capital entered 15 years after the state invested in the biotech knowledge base. In nanotech, scientists in the NSF coined the term before anyone in private business understood its potential returns.

Slander of the whole idea of state investment, characteristic of the right-wing whore-press in every country, and denial of the brazen delinquency of the globalised financial sector which is the real culprit behind the massive debt crisis we are currently mired in, is the political line of the day now by the political and corporate elite across Europe.

De-regulated casino banks and finance speculation funders, set up in a privileged position, were allowed to create massive amounts of debt not based on production values of any kind and help themselves to billions of dollars of bonuses and returns which they turned into cash for themselves and their cronies. These corporate thieves now have turned over their fake debt iou¦#39;s for the ordinary public to pay for with wage cuts and destruction of public services and a further agenda to monopolise the entire public sphere for even more profit for themselves.

We, the public, should no longer tolerate the dictatorship of this ruinous elite. Our money and our labour should not be used to ¦quot;fix¦quot; a thoroughly rotten system but instead should contribute to its long overdue demise and abolition. That is what is beginning to happen now across Europe. Merkel & Co can blind themselves into thinking they are still in charge but, more likely, they are occupants of their own Palace of Delusion as their counterparts in Versaille were in 1793.
03:26 May 10, 2012 by Reader75
@catjones: I agree, taxes are not applied fairly in the United States for both the poor and the rich. The poor now receive something called earned income tax credits based on low income which are applied when they file their annual state and federal income taxes (due every April 15th). For example, a poor person has a low-paying job, maybe several dependents (children), owns a small house (with a mortgage), and lives in a state that provides generous benefits and entitlements to lower income workers and to people who are not employed at all. During the year the he pays state and federal taxes which are automatically deducted from his paycheck every week. On or before April 15th in the new year, the poor person files his annual state and federal income taxes for the previous year and in this filing he calculates his earned income tax credits (all of which is verified by the IRS). If the poor person pays, for example, a total of $5,000 in state and federal income taxes, then based on his annual income, number of dependents, the benefits and entitlements provided by the state in which he lives, and several other factors, he will be refunded the $5,000 he paid throughout the previous year in state and federal taxes and in addition he also qualifies for earned income tax credits so he will receive several thousand more dollars back. This means that in reality the poor person has not paid any state or federal income taxes and in addition he will receive additional money on top of his tax refund to do with what he pleases. Does this scenario give anyone who earns a low income the incentive to work harder, or go to college, to get ahead? Does this scenario cause resentment by hard working people in higher income brackets who made the sacrifices to better themselves because they have the incentive and initiative to move up?

The ceiling for payment of social security taxes in the United States is $106,800. This means that workers earning an income at or below $106,800 must pay 6.2 percent of their income towards social security taxes. This tax is really regressive because it is more difficult for a lower income person to pay this tax than it is for a higher income person. In addition, for years we¦#39;ve been hearing about how the social security trust fund is underfunded, there are not enough workers paying into it for it to be solvent, and the fund will run out of money sometime in the future. A viable solution would be for all workers to pay 6.2 percent of their entire income into social security, especially grossly overpaid sports stars and Hollywood types, they can certainly afford it, after all 6.2 percent on the current ceiling is about $6,621 per year and that¦#39;s pocket change to them.
03:40 May 10, 2012 by Reader75A
Finally, all the cries you have heard in the news about rich people only paying 15 percent of their income in taxes is just not true. The crybabies are not telling the entire story and they do not bother to explain that taxes for high income earners in the United States is about 40 percent. Most rich people and many people who are not classified as rich, including myself, invest a portion of their disposable income in the stock market. Profits, i.e., income, from the stock market is taxed at a rate of about 15 percent. This means that these investors have already paid about 40 percent of their original income in taxes, then they invest some of their income in the stock market and it is taxed again at 15 percent when they sell their stocks, for a total tax of about 55 percent. Hmm, this is starting to sound like a normal European tax rate. This is why rich people like Warren Buffett pay taxes of 15 percent of income (profits from the stock market) but no one mentions that he has already paid about 40 percent in taxes on the originally earned income. If this administration is successful in raising the tax rate on income (profits) from the stock market, that will slow down our economic recovery even more.

One of the reasons why unemployment is so high in the United States right now is because the rich people, i.e., actually the middle class small business owners, have been over-regulated to death by the current administration so that in some cases it is actually easier to close the business and find a job with another employer rather than be self-employed and decipher the myraid of bureaucratic red tape. We had a stock market crash in 2008 and we have been limping along ever since. Our current president has been crying that he inherited a bad situation, and he did, but he applied for the job, he knew what he was getting himself into, he should stop blaming everyone for his failure to implement a sound economic strategy, and he should solicit the advice of saavy economic advisors who actually know what they are doing. It is his way or the highway, and the people are suffering due to his stubbornness and inexperience, and the thought of taking advice from knowledgeable people is alien to him. And please don¦#39;t tell me that the last administration only created X number of jobs because the average unemployment rate back then was about 4 percent, and this 4 percent was made up of people who were transitioning between jobs, or were employable but stopped working and did not seek follow-on employment, or were employable but did not look for a job, or were incapacitated so they could not work. 4 percent unemployment is any administration¦#39;s dream come true.
03:42 May 10, 2012 by Reader75
Another reason for our high unemployment is because small business owners are jittery about the implementation of Obamacare. There are some very good points about Obamacare, but the American public has yet to be informed of the the back room deals that were cut to sail this law through Congress. We were promised lower health premiums and we could keep our current health plan. My health insurance premiums have gone up about 12 percent each year and some plans previously offered by my employer have been dropped, or some employers have dropped offering health insurance altogether. That means if you are under the age of 65 then you have to find and fund your own health insurance, and if you are 65 or older you can go on Medicare. Medicare Part D is a supplemental add-on, which is paid for by the beneficiary, and that is a huge cost to lower income people. And Obamacare underfunds Medicare to pay for itself. Why are we robbing Peter to pay Paul?

My opinion is that everyone, no matter how poor, should pay some taxes. I grew up paying taxes on my income, there was no such thing as earned income tax credits when I entered the job market in 1978. Everyone should pay some taxes because that gives people a vested interest in how our government spends our money. Right now the poor people want to keep this gravy train running because they're not paying for it.
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