The French Want Out Of The Euro

One in three French citizens polled recently by Ipsos are in favour of FRexit – France exiting the euro and returning to the French Franc — while some 40% believe membership of the European Union to be “a bad thing”.

Frexit - the forbiddden debate -  features on Marianne's cover

Frexit – the forbiddden debate – features on Marianne’s cover

These startling statistics, a further reflection of France’s ras le bol with its leaders and the political class in general, are revealed by Marianne, the French leftwing magazine (edition No 876) which is critical of politicians for failing to engage in any debate about the euro.

The January 2014 Ipsos/Steria poll has, says Marianne, drawn zero reaction from major political parties because they “in cahoots with mainstream media, hide, deny and flee” from any French debate on this serious and controversial topic.

With the euro zone stubbornly gripped in a devastating six-year-long recession – there are now 5.6 million young people unemployed across Europe – Marianne says the time has come to find other solutions to a crisis — incubated at its outset by global bankster interests  – that is destroying Europe’s future generations of wage earners and threatening 70 years of peace.

At the end of 2013 after five years of economic and financial crisis nearly half of French citizens view the euro as a handicap rather than a benefit according to an Ifop survey (November 2013) while last summer an opinion poll conducted by the European Commission showed that support in favour of the euro has declined most sharply in four European states among them France (Eurobarometre July 2013).

Meanwhile says Marianne, some 40% of the French electorate believe that “membership of the European union is a bad thing”.

Jérôme Fourquet, Ifop’s director of opinion polling tells Marianne: “When half the working class and half those aged between 35 and 49 years of age support exiting the euro, the parties of government ought to be asking questions.”

Refusing to debate the issue is also tantamount to refusing to acknowledge that FRexit has become the talisman of Marine le Pen and her party, he adds. “Opposition to the euro does not win her party votes but it is a very important element of demarcation. It allows the Front National to show how much more radical it is than the UMP, the PS and the establishment…” Fourquet is reported as saying.

updated2crop-150x763Listen to the debate on News360x with French economist Jacques Sapir, a vociferous opponent of the euro, who says 50% of the current rate of unemployment in France is attributable to the euro:

Meanwhile Marianne’s lead writer Gérald Andrieu says voices now being raised in France suggest that Germany is in fact using the euro-crisis to destroy its EU competitors.

Is the EU in an existentialist crisis?  (Credit flickr)

Is the EU in an existentialist crisis? (Credit flickr)

The French historian and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd says that since 2009 he has come around to the view that Germany is back on a road to nationalism and using the euro to ruin its partners. “We must abandon our sadomasochist monetary relationship with Germany”, he tells Marianne.

His remarks are included in a recent report by the magazine into what it calls, the great French political taboo: the forbidden debate over whether France should abandon the euro so as to resolve its current economic crisis.

The timely reportage comes just a week before the release of a report in the Hague into NExit (Netherlands exit from the euro) by the leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), Geert Wilders. The study, by the UK consultancy Capital Economics, suggests among many other points that if the Netherlands left the EU, Dutch GDP would improve by 10-13% by 2035.

This report’s executive summary says in part: “outside the EU the Netherlands could reduce the cost of doing business in the Netherlands by a minimum of 20 billion euros annually by 2035 through renationalising regulations in areas currently in the jurisdiction of Brussels institutions; improve public finances by opting out of European Union spending programmes which should add a cumulative 240 billion euros to GDP by 2035; reduce public expenditure by a minimum of 7.5 billion euros annually by 2035 through revising immigration policy to focus more tightly on admitting only those who make an economic contribution.”

According to the Euroactiv website: the PVV and Marine le Pen’s Front National along with other EU parties on the right-of-the-right are making common cause in the European parliamentary elections in May. There are signs at present that these anti-EU parties may gain a majority of seats in the parliament, a development likely to shake the EU to its roots and jog political elites in the Paris-Berlin axis out of their complacency. 42% of surveyed French citizens think that the country’s EU membership is a good thing, a six-point decrease compared to April 2012, according to the survey by OpinionWay for TV news channel LCI and Le Figaro newspaper. 

And when it comes to the euro currency, the drop is even more significant. Currently, 53% of the French are opposed to the disappearance of the euro currency, down from 62% in 2012. Meanwhile, 26% say they are in favour of reintroducing the old French currency, the franc.

In the course of its 12-page investigation Marianne’s writers’ interview leading economists and academics — supporters and opponents of the euro – in an effort to ignite a public debate about what it calls the “fervency of the followers of the euro religion”.

Among those it consulted Emmanuel Todd is perhaps the most acerbic critic of the commitment by French elites to what he describes as “this golden lamb, this sacrificial currency, the euro in France”. Referring to François Hollande as ‘vice chancellor’ meaning of a German-dominated euro zone, he claims the president along with the rest of the French ruling elite, is a prisoner “to a monetary doctrine and faith”.

He said a recent re-reading of Asterix showed what an excellent metaphor it was for understanding French political attachment to the euro. “It simply represents the provincialism of a small Gaullois village which has decided to submit to the Goths,” he told the magazine. (For more on Asterix see here).

Read Jacques Sapir on exiting euro: A leading heterodox French economist Jacques Sapir warns that if SS Europa is not to become the 21st century Titanic, the ship’s captains should voluntarily scuttle its burdensome euro cargo, without delay.

Todd demystifies the claim by its defenders that the euro is integral to a federated European Union and part of the continuum of maintaining the European peace, with this argument: “At a recent symposium on free markets in Kyoto I heard a Japanese economist put it very succinctly; for him the gold standard and fixed exchange rates were required conditions for maximising competition between states. We, for our part sell the euro as a space of protection against globalisation, but by preventing devaluation the single currency has resulted in a maximised zone of confrontation — an economic war. Leaving the euro would mean a return to peace. We must cease this ridiculous war with Germany”.

He said viewed from Washington, Tokyo or Berne the euro zone is “the blackhole of the global economy, one of two major depressive factors on the planet, the other being the Chinese surplus… the euro will never be a success… ”.

Commenting on the current state of the euro “non-debate” in France Aude Lancelin, another Marianne contributor writes: “Apart from German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, a key figure in the Frankfurt school, and some big names on the French radical left such as Alain Badiou and Etienne Balibar, (no-one) will debate (a FRexit) because it would open the door to the extreme right, whose voice is already being heard at high volume across the continent, by focusing on the total voter disenchantment with the European idea. It would further encourage demands for a return to national sovereignty, a call that is seducing voters at a pace previously considered inconceivable”.

He goes on to note that an entirely new generation of leftwing economists and thinkers are also voicing concerns about the failure of the euro and of the European project. Cédric Durand  (39), a leftwing economist at l’Université Paris and Aurelien Bernier, also 39, author of La Gauche Radicale et ses Tabous (Seuil), loudly proclaim that Europe has done nothing to protect its citizens (in the current drawn out recession now entering Year 7).

They propose a return to the French Franc and to protectionist barriers as the only way of “resisting financial oligarchies” (now apparently hell-bent on impoverishing the middle classes). Lancelin notes: “On January 7 in a text entitled Disobey the European Union, Cédric Durand and his co-author Razmig Keucheyan, another young historian, urge voters to break with a Europe that is ‘neo-liberal and non-democratic’ ”. Lastly, says Marianne, economist Frédéric Lordon, a contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique is preparing to release a book end-March unequivocally calling for France to abandon the euro…”

A leading banker Philippe Villin, who tells Marianne the euro is a “collective hallucination”, sums up the problems of the single currency as he sees them thus: “Presented as an economic panacea, the euro has accentuated disparities between member states and ruined southern Europe while securing the exports of northern member states. This disastrous currency”, he tells Marianne, “must be killed-off”. He goes on to touch on a highly sensitive industrial problem facing France namely the collapse of its auto industry.

Villin states baldly that to save PSA Peugeot Citroën: “We must destroy the euro. However like his predecessors François Hollande has chosen to safeguard the currency and sacrifice the French auto industry instead. In the process he has dumped hundreds of thousands of workers onto the unemployment heap… Before the euro our motor industry specialised in entry level and mid-range vehicles, while Germany was focused on top-of-the range output. The Franc was weaker than the DM and this along with our ability to devalue the currency as necessary, meant we could sell cars in France as well as in Germany. With the euro, the exchange rate advantage disappeared. Germany has now invaded our market but chased us out of theirs. Our motor industry has seen production slashed by more than 50% — this is suicidal. Renault cynically shut its French plants and relocated manufacturing to cheaper plants elsewhere. Peugeot on the other hand stayed put. To save Peugeot we must destroy the euro. At the same time the euro has ruined southern Europe … the so-called recovery in Spain is being achieved at the cost of one in every two youngsters being out of work! Italy and France repeatedly complain about the euro being overvalued against other major currencies. They are unable to close the productivity gap with their German competitors by devaluing the currency. In a few years we will be totally skinned and when the electors realise that they have been ruined by European elites … they will revolt, but by then it will be too late.”

No to the euro but where is the political debate? (Credit Mei Burgin Flickr)

No to the euro but where is the political debate? (Credit Mei Burgin Flickr)

Villin adds: “We lost the chance to destroy the euro two years ago when the Germans and the European elites opted to guarantee the debts of the Mediterranean nations with Paris guaranteeing virtually as much as did Berlin. As a result Germany continues to enjoy strong export success thanks to the euro while southern Europe continues to buy German goods while being unable to export its own manufactures. Germany refuses to countenance a weaker euro and so we all remain suffocated under its diktat…without devaluation France cannot regain competitiveness against Germany. If the euro did not exist the French Franc today would be worth some 1 to 1.10 US Dollars and the DM 1.60-1.70 US Dollars … One asks how many more millions of unemployed must we accept before a politician has the courage to kill-off this disastrous currency”?

But, cautions economist Jean-Marc Daniel, lecturer at ESCP Europe and an expert at Institut de l’enteprise: “exiting the euro would imply a return to exchange controls, is the population ready to accept that? Certainly it is a false argument to suggest that exiting euro would reduce the size of the public debt; leaving the single currency would bring high inflation, a rise in interest rates and a decline in investment”.

André Orléan, an economist and director of research at CNRS told the magazine: “When the ECB announced its OMT programme to calm the very nervous markets at the height of the euro crisis it demonstrated very clearly the close link between public debt, currency and the exercise of national sovereignty, but at the time the creators of euro totally ignored this link”.

He went on: “Between 1999 and 2012 price inflation in Germany was of the order of 10%, and the same figure for Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece was around 30% while in France it was some 25%. France has an imperative need to devalue its currency something euro rules prevent. The failure of the euro is evident. There has been pitiful growth in the euro zone coupled with a worrying collapse of investment and since its creation the zone has lost more than 6 million industrial jobs. I am of the view that the greater part of French PMEs and their employees would have been far better off if we had never joined the euro and were still able to devalue our currency in times of crisis, however exiting the euro is not in my view, an end in and of itself”.

The French are angry and on the march (Credit Twitter)

The French are angry and on the march (Credit Twitter)

Popular discontent is growing as France’s Interior minister Manuel Valls noted recently. The Minister warning that a French Tea Party was emerging, spoke of the dark forces of division” and voices on the street opposed to everything: “anti-elite, anti-government, anti-tax, anti-parliament and anti-media”.

Marianne has launched its debate, just weeks ahead of the nationwide March local elections; will the politicians pick up this very hot potato?

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

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3 Responses to The French Want Out Of The Euro

  1. Pingback: Euro: A Sadomasochist German Weapon? | The Fran...

  2. Pingback: Euro: A Sadomasochist German Weapon? | FrenchNe...

  3. jean c guedj February 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    French people.,after many socialist leaning governments and their liberal social policies ,are finding out that there is no free lunch. ( short work week,very stringent hiring policies,) French economy is lagging behind comparable populated countries;Now: without conceding anything,the french want to “dump the euro and go back to the franc”.They do not like comparaisons to the hard working and successful germans or english,Poor France.

    Reply

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