The Conversation

French Socialists Call Germany Selfish, German Social Democrats Suggest French Lazy

A war of words has broken out in Europe between Francois Hollande's socialist party in France and the Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel in Germany. The split between the two nations has become so bitter that some papers are suggesting the allies may be "heading for divorce."

The spat began last week when the French socialists leaked a draft of a party policy paper which attacked the "selfish intransigence of Mrs Merkel." The 21 page paper argued that England and Germany were responsible for the problems in Europe and were pushing right-wing politics of "deregulation, deindustrialisation and disintegration."

Perhaps the most strident quote from the socialist paper reads "The [EU] community project is now scarred by an alliance of convenience between the Thatcherite accents of the current British prime minister – who sees Europe only as à la carte and about rebates – and the selfish intransigence of Chancellor Merkel who thinks of nothing else but the savings of depositors in Germany, the trade balance recorded in Berlin and her electoral future."

Francois Hollande, who campaigned on taxing the rich and restoring cuts to the French social welfare system, has seen his polling numbers tank as growth has been flat at 0.0 percent and the country has hit record levels of unemployment.

In response to the French criticism, German Vice-Chancellor Phillip Rösler leaked German reports which gave a scathing assessment of the French economy. One report titled "France: Europe’s biggest problem child" criticized Hollande for not doing enough to reform French structural problems. Another report described France as having the "highest tax and social security burden in the euro zone" paired with the "second lowest annual working time."

While the French socialists may grouse about Merkel's obsession with the "savings of depositors" in Germany and the "Thatcherite" elements in England, Ambrose Evans Pritchard notes that there are real differences in how people in these countries live. He writes that in France "just 39.7pc of those aged 55 to 64 are working, compared with 56.7pc in the UK and 57.7pc in Germany."

The German criticism of France is reminiscent of a critique by an American tire CEO that went viral in February. Titan CEO Maurice Taylor wrote of French work habits, "I have visited the factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three, and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!"


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