EU glue starts to melt

The long-standing Franco-German partnership that bound the euro project together is showing signs of coming undone.

Ever since the 1950s, the Franco-German alliance has driven the European project forward. It has worked "largely by simultaneously disguising both German strength and French weakness", says The Economist. And there have been plenty of ups and downs. But now, due to the euro crisis, French economic weakness and German economic strength looks "more lopsided and thus more fraught than ever before".

The French, especially elements within the Socialist government, have become increasingly resentful of Germany's tough stance on bail-outs, austerity and reforms. A Socialist Party official recently lambasted the "selfish intransigence" of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Much of the French establishment wants to avoid painful reforms, but also fears that ongoing austerity across the eurozone will undermine what little growth there is.

As far as the Germans are concerned, France is neglecting its duty to help Germany sort out Europe because it is grappling with a self-induced crisis. The Franco-German motor always pushed Europe forward, but there haven't been any key joint initiatives for months now, says Karin Finkenzeller on, a German news website.

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France is preoccupied with its slide into recession, rising unemployment, and its rising deficit. France's president, Franois Hollande, has been unable to come up with a coherent response.

Indeed, the Germans are worried that France is turning into a Club Med basket case. Two reports leaked by Germany's governing liberal party, the Free Democratic Party, decry France's dwindling competitiveness, the highest tax and social security burden in the eurozone, and the trifling reform efforts under Hollande since his election last June.

The Germans are right that France urgently needs reform, says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on However, the Germans have also forgotten that they went through their own tough structural changes ten years ago when the short-term pain was mitigated by the global boom. Now, there is a continent-wide gruelling recession, so the task would be that much harder.

Regardless of these details, however, the point is that France and Germany are "talking past each other". As the continent's economic backdrop worsens, the tension in its crucial political relationship is another reason to fear that the glue holding the single currency together is melting.