Kai Ryssdal: Today was, by recent measures, fairly quiet in the European debt crisis. There’s a creeping realization, perhaps, that this weekend’s Spanish bailout might not be enough. But otherwise, a perfect day to saunter the streets, stop for a drink, and strike up a conversation.
Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is on a grand tour of European bars this week — seeking not official pronouncements on the debt crisis, but the view from a bar stool. He stops today in Paris.
Stephen Beard: The Café La Fusee is a short walk away from Paris City Hall.
Benjamin Scott: My name is Benjamin Scott. I am the co-owner of Café La Fusee.
Serge Gainsbourg song
Benjamin Scott is an unusual Parisian. He’s mild mannered and friendly. But his café/bar on the right bank of the Seine is typically French. The red and white striped awning, the menu chalked up on a blackboard. And Benjamin’s explanation for the crisis is typically French, too.
Scott: It’s more about the people who like to earn money without working, who like to speculate.
Benjamin cannot accept that the eurozone is at fault.
Beard: You don’t blame the euro for this mess, then?
Scott: No, the euro is just a currency. Money. It’s a name on a money. Can’t be the fault of the money!
Benjamin says that despite the financial turmoil in Europe his business and many others here are doing fine. His customers seem to be doing OK, too. Although 22-year-old David Carasso, who will graduate soon from a business school, is getting nervous.
David Carasso: We are fearing that the same situation that is happening in Spain right now — 40 percent of students are unemployed in Spain. It could happen in France and we know it. We are not different from Spain.
Last week, the minister for labor in France’s new socialist government promised to tackle unemployment. How? By making it too expensive for companies to lay off staff.
Waitress: Merci beaucoup.
At La Fusee, more customers come and go. The day wears on. The early summer sunshine begins to fade. The mood in the bar darkens a little, too. The news coming in other eurozone countries, like Spain and Greece, never seems to get any better. Eddy Adayi, a pharmacist, drinks a coffee after work and he says he’s worried that Greece might be pushed out of the euro.
Eddy Adayi: After you have another country — I don’t know, maybe Portugal or Spain, you open the door to breaking up the eurozone.
Beard: For the eurozone to break up?
I didn’t find a single drinker in La Fusee who thought breaking up would be a good idea. Sixty-three-year-old teacher Raymonde Legendre:
Raymonde Legendre: No, we need a union. It’s not possible to have Germany and France and Italy, separate? Separated.
Beard: As separate countries?
Legendre: Yes, yes. No, no. I think it’s the past.
But how much more closely would she like to rub shoulders with her European partners?
Beard: Would you like to see eventually a United States of Europe?
Legendre: Yes, but it’s a dream. It needs a long time.
Beard: You say it’s a dream, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it?
Legendre: No, no, no. Not a nightmare. No, no. It’s a dream.
Beard: A nice one?
Legendre: A nice one. I wish that!
She’s still in a minority. With Serge Gainsbourg crooning in the background, with red Bordeaux and Croque Monsieur on the menu, there seems little appetite here for less France and more Europe. But if the euro is to survive, more Europe — and a more dominant role for Germany — could be on the way.
At La Fusee in Paris, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
Marketplace is on a mission.
We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.
Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?