EYE Change Europe can believe
in? By Pepe Escobar
Europe may just be living a remix of the
late 2008 moment when Barack Obama won the
presidency in the United States. But this time,
will it be real?
The election on Sunday of
socialist Francois Hollande as president of France
comes at an extraordinary historical junction. He
may have risen to the occasion himself, stressing
in his acceptance speech "austerity is not a
fatality". This is not only
about France - it's about the
future of Europe. And when France talks - better
yet, acts - Europe listens.
What a party
that was in Bastille on Sunday night - capable of
sending chills to any spine. A cross-section of
French society sending a message to Europe and the
wider world; it's possible to dream of change -
and most of all, social justice. There is an
And all that with a Quiet
Frenchman as the lightning rod. A "normal" guy.
Not bad for what was the socialists' replacement
choice - after former uber-favorite, then
International Monetary Fund (IMF) director
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, fell for that extremely
dodgy sex trap at the Sofitel in New York.
But now it's hangover time. The Left runs
only seven among 27 European Union (EU) nations.
The bling bling King Sarko, neo-Napoleonic
Liberator of Libya former president Nicolas
Sarkozy, has been reduced to a minor historical
footnote - with his popstar Italian belle wife
Carla Bruni already plotting her next career move.
King Sarko is the 11th European leader to fall
over the double-dip European recession. "Merkozy"
- King Sarko and German chancellor Angela Merkel,
the mongrel couple running Europe, is dead.
Slouching towards Merkollande
Frau Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister
David Cameron were and remain all for "austerity".
Iron Lady Angela badly wanted King Sarko to remain
in place. Yet Hollande sent special envoys to
Berlin last week. As a pragmatist, he knew that
Merkel had seen first hand how Sarko could also be
arrogant and unpredictable.
Hollande is a
self-effacing, down to earth pragmatist fond of
consensus who happens to be an economist who once
taught at the elite Sciences Po in Paris. He's no
radical. "Merkollande" will have to be born out of
pragmatism. The really tough nut to crack will be
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueuble - the
Wotan of Austerity in the eurozone.
and Schaueuble would need to be hacked to death by
a gang of Visigoths to let go of their fiscal pact
- to which King Sarko subscribed. Mario Draghi -
former Goldman Sachs hand and president of the
European Central Bank (ECB) - wants a growth pact
as well. He - and the neo-liberal elite - see it
as even freer markets, that is, a hire-and-fire
free for all, perhaps coupled with more public
investment in infrastructure.
totally against the uncontrolled, unregulated
mega-free market. As for public investment, the
only nations who could pull it off need good
credit rating and low financial costs. Virtually
none in the EU now qualify.
So it would be
up to Germany. The capital would have to be
German. We should expect Hollande to convince
Merkel that sooner or later Germans will notice
that never-ending recession is politically toxic.
The foremost ominous consequence already exists -
for all to see; the extreme right wing on steroids
all across Europe.
During his campaign,
Hollande went no holds barred to identify who the
"enemy" is; it's "the world of finance". No wonder
Wall Street and the City of London saw - and will
continue to see - Hollande as more dangerous than
Vladimir Lenin. So the battlefield is drawn;
Hollande versus neo-liberalism and "the markets",
Hollande as Don Quixote versus the iron troika of
the ECB, the IMF and the European Commission (EC).
Epic doesn't even begin to describe it.
Once again; let's follow the money (as in
Public debt in France
is 90% of gross domestic product (GDP). There have
been no balanced budgets since 1974. The ratio of
government debt to GDP is almost 57% - the highest
among the 17 eurozone nations. Unemployment is at
roughly 10%. Virtually an entire generation of
children of migrants - mostly from Northern Africa
- have been confined to ghettos, sullen and
unemployed, all their lives.
wants to change France's retirement age from 62
back to 60. He wants to hire at least 60,000 new
teachers. He wants to reduce electricity prices
for low-income people. The only way to finance all
this would be his (promised) 75% tax rate on
anyone earning over 1 million euros (US$1.3
million) a year, plus a tax on financial
transactions. No wonder la grande bourgeoisie in
France is tearing their Diors in despair.
So that's Hollande's platform in a
nutshell; jobs and economic growth. If he fails,
the extreme-right wins, blaming both Paris and
Show me the money Under
Hollande, the grand lines of King Sarko's foreign
policy may hold - but they will be substantially
Hollande has never been to China.
In Beijing, they are inclined to see him as a
"normal president" - unlike the Duracell bunny on
crack King Sarko. Thus, from a Chinese point of
view, relations are bound to be "normal", as in
Crucially, Hollande wants a
deeper strategic partnership with the BRICS -
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. And
especially savory to the emerging powerhouses, he
is in favor of the end of the US dollar as the
world's reserve currency - to be replaced by a
basket of currencies. Now the BRICS may have a
strategic ally right at the heart of the EU in
terms of trying to modernize the global financial
Hollande's first international
test is right ahead, at the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) summit in Chicago later this
month. It will be fascinating to watch whether he
may be able to throw a monkey wrench into NATO's
Globocop ambitions. Most European countries, fed
up with the black-hole adventures in Afghanistan
and Libya, may in fact support him. Hollande said
he would withdraw all French soldiers from
Afghanistan by the end of 2012.
real war will be inside Europe. In the end, we're
back to "follow the money".
France's ageing population to retire early. He
wants France's farmers comfortably subsidized -
not to mention its cows, whose standard of living
is better than 2 billion people on the planet. He
wants the generous French social welfare apparatus
to keep working.
How to pay for all this -
when all the money has been sucked up into the
bulging pockets of the 0.1%? The "normal" guy may
not just be making a push to change Europe; he
will have to make a push to change the world.