Clash Between Hollande And Cameron Highlight Of Ho Hum Summit
The recently concluded European summit that effectively ended the Cypriot presidency, as Lithuania takes over on January 1, basically recognized that no dramatic changes are going to occur until Germany has held its general elections in September .
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not going to be able to display the necessary "solidarity" i.e. German readiness to pay off debts incurred by others, in order to straighten out Europe's finances.
Nor will Europe be able to pass a pro-growth budget at a time of domestic retrenchment.
If at the time of Francois Hollande's election in June, there were expectations that France would shift the pendulum from austerity to growth, the declining popularity of Hollande in France, coupled with Merkel's prestige, has resulted in a standoff - with Merkel promising more bad times ahead until Europe has sorted itself out.
Therefore, the efforts are concentrated on preventing things from getting worse. A case in point was tiding Greece over with the next installment of the bailout.
Appointing the European Central Bank as supervisor over the banks is intended to increase faith in the banking system.
The injection of capital by the ECB has also temporarily blunted the rise in interest rates for problem countries such as Italy and Spain.
If the Brussels summit had some drama, it was between Britain and France. Francois Hollande rebuked the British position that sought to repatriate powers previously awarded to Brussels. The French president scoffed at the British a la carte approach to European unification. One could not pick and choose and similarly one could not always threaten a British exit from the union, he said, positing that Europe was a marriage for life.
The British replied that the euro zone crisis had created the need for closer relations and tighter supervision within the euro zone. Britain had not employed its ability to veto these changes. Just as Britain had displayed understanding, other countries should display similar deference to British wishes that sought changes in the opposite direction.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure to show that he can defend British sovereignty against Brussels. His predicament has been compounded by his support for a gay marriage bill that has alienated many conservative party activists.
Other senior Conservative politicians, such as education minister Michael Gove, and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who back gay marriage, have sought to compensate by taking a tougher stance on Europe.
Hollande is irked by the readiness of Johnson and other British leaders to poach French businesses fleeing the higher tax in France.