GlobalPost, 28 April, 2012
BERLIN — It is hardly surprising that the German Social Democrats are delighted with the prospect of a Francois Hollande victory in France’s presidential election. There are, after all, very few center-left parties in power in Europe these days.
The SPD will be hoping that if the Socialist Party candidate beats incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on May 6, it will signal a European comeback of sorts for social democracy, and give them a boost not only in forthcoming regional elections, but next year in the national vote.
“Obviously the SPD would feel that a Socialist victory in France would be very good news, and there is often a certain spill-over effect,” says Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But on the other hand, the impact shouldn’t be overestimated either.”
He points out, for example, that Spanish voters have just voted out the Socialists. “There is no question of a general trend in Europe.”
At the same time, with a possible Hollande victory, some center-left parties may start to feel they are winning the argument about growth in the euro crisis. While the SPD in Germany broadly supports Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach — backing her on the bailouts, for example — they have also demanded that she think beyond a narrow focus on savings and cuts. Continue reading
GlobalPost, April 21, 2012
BERLIN— It was nice while it lasted. But “Merkozy,” it seems, is no more.
Europe’s odd couple has hit a rough patch. And it would be difficult to revive the relationship, even in the unlikely event that one half of the pair survives his tough political battle in the days ahead.
As French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the first of round of the presidential election on April 22, his campaign has turned increasingly populist in tone. This had already caused some unease in Berlin, but the fact that the French president broke an important promise he made to German Chancellor Angela Merkel not to bring up the role of the European Central Bank in the euro crisis has caused even more of a rift.
It looks like the end of an unlikely alliance forged over the course of the past few years.
It was hardly surprising that the outspoken, hyperactive French president with the bling lifestyle and the supermodel wife, did not, at first, hit it off with the modest, cautious German chancellor who still does her own grocery shopping. But as the Franco-German relationship became increasingly important to both of them, the initially frostriness began to thaw.
After all, Merkel needed an ally to avoid the perception that Germany was calling all the shots in the euro zone. Sarkozy wanted to retain France’s traditionally strong political role in the EU despite the reality of Germany’s growing dominance and France’s waning influence. Continue reading
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is mulling a recommendation to impose a tax on Internet ad revenues in France. The proposal is aimed at helping the French culture industries survive the new digital age. But critics say it is absurd, unworkable and will do little more than prop up failing business models.
France has never been shy when it comes to protecting its culture and heritage, with quotas for French-language chansons on the radio and massive subsidizes for its home-grown film industry. Now it could be about to take on perhaps the greatest symbol of the globalized, and increasingly Anglophone, world: Google.
On Thursday evening French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would get his Finance Ministry to look at a controversial proposal to impose a tax on the online ad revenues that Google and other search engines generate in France. He also said he would ask the national competition authorities to look at whether Google had an unfair market dominance.
Sarkozy’s comments, made during a speech to culture officials at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, came the day after his government was presented with a report commissioned to look at ways to protect French cultural industries in the new online world. The most controversial proposal was a tax, dubbed the “Google tax,” that would take a small percentage of the big Internet players’ online ad revenues. It is the latest rallying cry in France’s war on the infringement of its cultural identity, something the French president is keen to be seen defending. Continue reading