What’s up, Europe? French president meets Putin, life goes on
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Kai Ryssdal: Just as some parts of this country were hit worse by the recession and the financial crisis than others, so too with Europe. In fact, a question you might ask is What’s up, Europe? Today to France, where compared to Spain or Ireland or Greece, life seems to be pretty good. Sophie Pedder is the Paris bureau chief for The Economist. Thanks for being here.
Sophie Pedder: You’re very welcome.
Ryssdal: So what’s not in the papers today? What might an American audience appreciate about the news in Paris right now?
Pedder: Well, what’s not quite happened yet, but is very much in everybody’s minds this evening is a meeting between between the new President François Hollande and Vladimir Putin, who is coming from Berlin, where he met Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, earlier. I think the French are looking with great interest at their new president. He has had quite a baptism of fire over the last two weeks. This is somebody who has very, very little foreign policy experience. Now he’s dealing with Putin and that as you know is quite something at the best of times, but for a debutant it’s going to be quite a challenge.
Ryssdal: Debutant — that’s a little harsh, no?
Pedder: Well I don’t think it is in a way because this is somebody who — don’t forget — has not been ever a member of a new government in France, he’s never been a minister. He is an experienced political hack, if you like. But he hasn’t had any foreign policy experience at all except what he’s done over the last two-and-a-half weeks.
Ryssdal: Take me out of Paris for a minute and take us down to Marseille in the south of France or Brittany on the coast or wherever and tell me what is on real people’s minds — away from the politics and all that.
Pedder: What’s on everyone’s mind on France is the French Open and this is the tennis tournament. It’s a Grand Slam tournament. It takes place in Paris, but it’s broadcast obviously nationally and live and this year has been a very good year so far for the French male players. But today I think there is a huge sense of disappointment because their last female player, a woman called Mathilde Johansson, has just gone out to an American, 19-year-old Sloane Stephens. That happened today, so disappointment on the female tennis front, but there’s more than a handful of male players left and that for the French is a big source of pride.
Ryssdal: It sounds a little bit like life goes on over there no matter what’s happening.
Pedder: I have to say sometimes you do not get the sense of the euro crisis, which is real and is out there and it does touch things like unemployment. But the French still like their holidays and they like their days off and if they can head in the car and head to the coast, they’ll still do it.
Ryssdal: Sophie Pedder, she’s the correspondent for The Economist in Paris. Sophie, thanks so much.
Pedder: You’re very welcome.
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