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There’s nothing like a little political hubris to liven up the usually dreary eurozone news. And if you’re hunting for hubris, France is usually a good place to start. And so it is, with a new mini fracas involving the cover photo of French baguettes being lit like a bomb on the cover of the latest Economist. This has angered the country’s politicians that somehow France could be viewed as ‘next’ for crumbling, a la Greece and Spain.
As the Guardian recently reported: ‘The French finance minister Pierre Moscovici called the report an “absurd and groundless” exercise in “French bashing” while prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault accused the Economist of sensationalism. “You are talking about a newspaper which is resorting to excess to sell paper. France isn’t at all impressed.” It seems that Hollande is continuing to get a bashing in the hot seat. But, amongst this media spin, the country’s foreign minister, Pierre Moscovici, told the Financial Times: “France is not the sick man of Europe. France remains the world’s fifth largest economic power that has all its resources but which needs to recover its competitiveness.”
This assertion comes at a fortuitous time as the latest growth figures show that the nation managed a meager 0.2 per cent growth in the third quarter, although GDP fell back into recession for the first time in three years. And through all of this kerfuffle, Germany’s iron lady is known to be worried about the lack of competitiveness shown by France. This is being addressed, urgently, as Moscovici was at pains to point out. A six percent reduction in labour costs is a start, and the promise of new investment schemes on the horizon. Just don’t mention burning baguettes to anyone French, and we should all be fine.