Jeff Horwich: All morning long we’ve been dissecting the implications of the elections in Greece. There, voters chose the party most committed to keeping them in the euro — despite the continued austerity measures that might entail.
In France, on the other hand, voters handed complete legislative power to the party pushing back against more austerity for Greece and other struggling eurozone members. For the first time in decades, voters gave President Francois Hollande’s Socialists a solid majority in the lower house of parliament — to complement their majority in the upper house.
Here with a bit on the other European election is Christian Fraser, reporter with the BBC in Paris. Christian, hello.
Christian Fraser: You’re welcome.
Horwich: For Americans who are so used to complete partisan gridlock these days, it’s kind of amazing to look at what seems like remarkable power, with the ability to legislate essentially whatever they want. What do you think the Socialists are likely to try to do first?
Fraser: Well look, through the presidential election, we’ve talked a lot about growth, but public debt in this country is rising almost to 90 percent of GDP, gross domestic product. So they are going to have to make cuts. The president’s deliberately avoided a lot of talk about the pain that the French electorate is going to have to suffer. But now that it’s out of the way, you can anticipate that when it comes to the 2013 budget, those cuts are going to be there.
Horwich: Now, Hollande takes a very different perspective from Germany on how to approach austerity in terms of relief for Greece and other countries. What are the implications for Germany and for the ongoing attempt to stave off a major crisis in the eurozone?
Fraser: I think the key comment really came from his finance minister Pierre Moscovici last night. He welcomed this result in Greece, but he restated that all countries must continue to abide by the commitments they’ve made. But there must also be hope, and so I think what you will see from the French is a desire, really, to give the Greeks some wiggle room. You’re also going to see two very different approaches to the medium- and long-term future of the eurozone. The Germans want more political union; the French, not too keen on that. They’re talking about a blueprint, if you will, towards that political union but the first priority, they say, is to get the economies working.
Horwich: The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris. Thanks very much.
Fraser: You’re welcome.