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Nov 23, 2012
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Catalonian independence isn’t worth the pain

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The politicians who are arguing for Catalonia’s independence from Madrid can make a seemingly convincing case that the region would be economically viable as a standalone, sovereign nation. Except that they miss the point. The relative wealth and prosperity Catalonia currently enjoys depends on its links to Spain, the euro zone and the wider European Union. A unilateral breakup would leave Catalonia stranded, and considerably poorer. It would take years before it could become “viable” again.

Nov 20, 2012
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Moody’s downgrade is good news for France

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Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

François Hollande has received a little help from an unlikely friend. Moody’s, the ratings agency, has stripped France of its prized AAA status, following rival S&P’s similar move in January. Markets yawned at the long-expected news, with yields on French 10-year bonds up a meagre four basis points. The decision comes with threats of further downgrades, so it puts pressure on France to plough ahead with its reform plans. But the French president should welcome the announcement, which will help him convince his compatriots that more changes are needed, and that time is short.

Oct 8, 2012
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France’s silly stake obsession could kill BAE-EADS

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

When EADS and BAE went to the French government with their merger project back in July, they were greeted “as if by a Parisian waiter smoking on the pavement, who makes sure patrons understand they’re not welcomed”, says one investment banker involved in the talks. Not that Paris was opposed to the deal. But it made for an unexpectedly important decision to take at a time when the new socialist government’s energy was focused elsewhere.

Sep 27, 2012
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Advice to French refuseniks on 75 pct tax: move on

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

François Hollande’s campaign pledge to slap a marginal 75 percent tax on incomes above 1 million euros a year was so outrageous that it took his advisers by surprise. “Cuba without the sun”, one of them reportedly quipped. The same adviser is now the French president’s deputy chief of staff, in charge of ensuring that politics prevail over economic rationality.

Sep 25, 2012
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Franco-German politics first hurdle for BAE/EADS

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

France and Germany must clear the air before the merger between BAE and EADS can proceed. Their uneasy alliance over the Airbus maker’s shareholding and governance cannot continue as is – its end is even a prerequisite for the merger. But Paris and Berlin remain obsessed by “parity”, the sacrosanct notion that their position in the company should be identical. Franco-German parity could be preserved in a larger group, as long as political passions are kept under control.

Jul 11, 2012
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Regulators have to tackle flawed benchmarks

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By Pierre Briancon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Regulators chase financial fraud like anti-doping inspectors pursue Tour de France riders: they play catch-up. Innovation – in the form of new products or new drugs – is always a few steps ahead. So the police only come in after the fact – and often before the fact has even been defined as a crime.

Jul 4, 2012
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France arrives early to austerity rendezvous

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By Pierre Briancon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

François Hollande has chosen the early strike option. His government will not wait to embark on the austerity programme needed to take the budget deficit back to three percent of gross domestic product next year. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was expected to detail the pain in his address to parliament on July 3. Public-sectors unions will protest and threaten. But in spite of the likely uproar, fiscal discipline is the easy part. Making the economy competitive again will be much harder.

Jul 3, 2012
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ECB summit win may come back to haunt it

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Mario Draghi is the unheralded yet undeniable “winner” of last week’s euro summit. The European Central Bank he presides over could end up with enlarged powers as supervisor of the euro zone’s banking system. It has successfully fought off attempts by most governments to force it into action – whether outright bond-buying or indirect sovereign financing through a banking licence given to the euro bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. Finally the ECB did get something it had advocated: that the ESM be allowed to recapitalise the area’s troubled banks directly. Meanwhile, euro members have reaffirmed their commitments to stick with fiscal discipline. From Draghi’s viewpoint, what’s not to love?

Jun 19, 2012
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Spain won’t be saved without grand master plan

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By Pierre Briançon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Avoiding the great Greek scare hasn’t allowed the euro zone to breathe a sigh of relief on Spain. Yields on the country’s 10-year bonds are now reaching 7.2 percent. The Spanish government has already done a lot. The extra steps it could take are of marginal importance in the current context.

Jun 15, 2012
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Euro ganging up on Germany is unlikely to succeed

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By Pierre Briancon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Financial desperation combined with diplomatic inexperience could end up costing the euro zone dearly. France, Italy and Spain seem to think that presenting Germany with the same demands, over and over again, will soften Angela Merkel to the point that she will accept reforms like euro bonds, a banking union or a direct recapitalisation of the region’s banks by the European Stability Mechanism, the euro zone’s bailout fund. But the more the gang of three insists, the more Germany is digging in its heels. On some of the issues it can even rely on the support of the European Central Bank. Ganging up on Germany is not only inefficient: it could backfire if it makes it impossible for euro leaders to come up with some common vision at their summit at the end of the month.

    • About Pierre

      "Pierre Briançon is Reuters Breakingviews' Paris correspondent. He joined Breakingviews.com in 2006, after heading the Dow Jones Newswires Paris Bureau Chief for three years. Previously, he had been: business editor of Libération, then the newspaper's Moscow and Washington correspondent; deputy editor of L’Expansion; and a producer/columnist for French radio and TV. He is also the author of Messier Story (2002), on the fall of Vivendi’s former chief executive, Héritiers du désastre (1992) on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and San Quentin Jazz Band (2008)."
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