Results of French and Greek Elections Could Signal Shift on Economic Crisis

NYT: PARIS — France and Greece vote Sunday in elections that will be closely watched for the future of the European Union and the euro. The votes will once again highlight the emerging crux of the euro crisis: Will democratic politics offer a solution to the economic crisis or just make it worse?

Anxieties are rising again over the shared currency, and these elections are likely to be another blow to a German-designed austerity plan to cure the euro zone’s debt and banking crisis. If the French Socialist candidate, François Hollande, wins the presidency, as the polls suggest, he plans to challenge Germany, vowing to renegotiate a European Union treaty mandating deficit and debt limits in order to add a new emphasis on economic growth.

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“It’s not for Germany to decide for the rest of Europe,” Mr. Hollande said on the campaign trail. “If I am elected president, there will be a change in Europe’s construction. We’re not just any country: we can change the situation.”

He intends, he said in a fierce debate Wednesday night with President Nicolas Sarkozy, “to give a new direction to Europe.”

Mr. Hollande’s words may have a degree of campaign bravado, but he is riding a wave of political resistance to austerity that has brought down even the government in the Netherlands, one of the best-run economies in Europe and a close ally of Germany. Given France’s importance, if Mr. Hollande wins he might end up leading a sort of “growth bloc,” which would challenge the German medicine, or at least try to dilute it.

With the euro zone relapsing into recession and unemployment at 10.9 percent, a record high, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has already called for a “growth pact” in parallel to the fiscal pact.


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