World View: French Socialist Pres. Frustrates Merkel in Fiscal Negotiations

This morning's key headlines from
  • France and Germany clash sharply over debt crisis solution
  • New U.N. 'peace envoy' to Syria dithers, describing a grim situation
  • Catalonia will vote for independence from Spain on Thursday

France and Germany clash sharply over debt crisis solution

When France's President was Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel could count on being able to reach agreement with him over how to proceed on the euro debt crisis. Like Merkel, Sarkozy was a fiscal conservative, but France's new president is François Hollande, who is a socialist and anything but a fiscal conservative. And so while the two were in Ludwigsburg, Germany, on Saturday, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Germany-France unity, they were sharply disagreeing on fiscal matters. The two major areas of disagreement are:

  • Hollande advocates giving Greece all the bailout money it needs and granting the requested two-year postponement on fulfilling austerity commitments; Merkel does not.
  • Hollande advocates quick implementation of the proposed euro zone "banking union," a centralized regulator for all the 6,000 banks in the 17 euro countries. The European Central Bank (ECB) would have supervisory powers over the banks, and there would be an area wide deposit insurance system. Merkel also supports a banking union, but wants to move much more slowly, and says that quality is more important than speed.

The irony, of course, is that even though Merkel and Sarkozy could agree on what to do, their plans have accomplished nothing, and the situation is much worse than it was two years ago. That's because, as I've been saying for two years, NO SOLUTION EXISTS. So now we'll go through a period where France and Germany will disagree over everything and blame each other, but the final outcome will be no different. Bloomberg

New U.N. 'peace envoy' to Syria dithers, describing a grim situation

Lakhdar Brahimi, who recently became the new United Nations "peace envoy" to Syria, replacing Kofi Annan, spoke to the United Nations Security Council on Monday and provided a very grim assessment: 

I think there is no disagreement that the situation is extremely bad and getting worse. I refuse to believe that reasonable people do not see that you cannot go backward; you cannot go back to the Syria of the past. I think I told everybody in Damascus and elsewhere that reform is not enough. What is needed is change.

Brahimi was referring to the almost unprecendent situation where Russia and China have repeatedly vetoed one resolution after another.

If I do not represent the entire council, I am nothing. I need to be seen to represent a united council and a united League of Arab States, and I think the Security Council understands that perfectly well.

Brahimi is just running around the world talking to everyone, with no hope of progress. Kofi Annan and his "six-point plan" were worse than useless, because they provided cover for Syria's president Bashar al-Assad to continue his massacres of Syria's women and children. Now Brahimi will replace Annan in that role. AP

Catalonia will vote for independence from Spain on Thursday

Some people are calling this a confrontation that harks back to 1936, when Generalissimo Francisco Franco seized power in Spain, launching the brutal Spanish civil war. On Thursday, the parliament of Catalonia will vote on whether to declare independence from Spain. Now the Spanish Military Association is threatening to charge with high treason anyone who is participating in this cause: 

If this plan is actuated, let there be no doubt that those who have permitted this, or participated or assisted in reaching this threat of fracture of Spain, either by commission or omission or through their constitutional positions, shall be accountable to the fullest extent possible of the serious charge of treason before the courts of military jurisdiction.

Spanish Military Association (translation) and An Phoblact (Dublin)

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