Francois Hollande managed to bat off questions about his private life (how successful he is in holding that line depends on the attitude of the French media which yesterday was nothing but respectful) and focus instead on a blizzard of economic reforms.
Skating past the French president’s call for an Airbus-style Franco-German energy company which left everyone including the Germans bemused, there was some real meat.
Hollande reaffirmed his “responsibility pact” to cut taxes and red tape for companies, saving them 30 billion euros, in return for a commitment to hire more people and increase training.
He also promised a further 50 billion euros in spending cuts in 2015-17 on top of a planned 15 billion this year, saying they could be achieved by making national and local government more efficient while preserving France’s generous social model.
Of course, it’s all about delivery rather than rhetoric and it will be some trick to pull off hefty spending cuts that do not undermine the social model. But it will be interesting to see whether Berlin and Brussels in particular think Hollande is now moving in the right direction, having been underwhelmed by his labour and welfare reforms so far.
Is this his Mitterrand moment echoing his political hero’s abrupt shift in the 1980s to halt a policy of nationalisation and stronger worker benefits as public finances crumbled? It’s probably not that dramatic though doubtless it is more than enough to enrage the unions. Either way, for this presidential term at least, it feels like a now or never moment. Falter and the euro zone’s recovering economies will start looking like better bets.