News / Europe

Economic Worries Spark French-British Tensions

A pedestrian passes a shop in Brighton southern England, December 15, 2011
A pedestrian passes a shop in Brighton southern England, December 15, 2011
Lisa Bryant

As Europe's fiscal concerns mount, relations between France and Britain are fraying as the two countries trade barbs over which economy is the worse off. The spat among historic rivals comes amid more gloomy economic forecasts out this week.

Slow growth and high debts have strained European Union ties this year, raising arguments that Europe must either bind closer together fiscally and economically, or face at least the prospect that the 17-nation eurozone might break apart. Britain - which is not part of the eurozone - made clear earlier this month it would not join a new fiscal pact championed by France and Germany.

That has strained relations with France. So have comments by French government officials - like French Finance Minister Francois Baroin.

In a recent radio interview, Baroin rejected any economic "lessons" from London. Britain's economy was very worrying, he said, adding that it was preferable to be French right now than British.

Reports say Britain has objected to these and other French remarks. But the bottom line, says Tomasz Michalski, a professor at the HEC business school in Paris, is that both France and Britain should be worrying.

"If you look at economic figures, both France and the United Kingdom are not doing especially well," said Michalski. "So they have high debt-to-GDP ratios - France has something which is approaching 90 percent; the UK is around 80 percent. Both are in danger of a recession. And therefore the prospects of both countries incurring more debt in the future are still large."

Ratings agencies - including Fitch Ratings on Friday - have warned a French downgrade is looming. That would be a blow to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign for reelection next year.

"Sarkozy is very uneasy with France losing its triple A status just before the presidential elections," said Michalski. "That's because it would be on his watch - he would be responsible."

In fact, the outlook for Europe as a whole is gloomy. The European Central Bank in a report on Monday predicted tough economic times in 2012, with slower economic growth and a shortage of financing for banks. But in remarks to European lawmakers, ECB President Mario Draghi downplayed fears of a breakup of the eurozone.

"I have no doubt whatsoever about the strength of the euro, about its permanence, about its irreversibility….The one [single] currency is irreversible," Draghi said.

On Monday, European finance ministers agreed to inject $196 billion into the International Monetary Fund to help shore up struggling eurozone countries. But that sum fell short of the $261 billion European leaders agreed on earlier this month. Britain reportedly declined to contribute to the funding.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs