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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.

Jun 12, 2012
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Spain, euro zone could still clash over banks

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By Pierre Briancon and Fiona Maharg-Bravo

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

To be successful, Spain’s bank bailout should be a takeover. Euro zone governments have so far been vague about the exact “conditionality” they will attach to recapitalising the country’s lenders. Nonetheless, that vagueness is indicative of the direction they’re heading. There’s the classic restructuring of the banking sector, which will be supervised by the European Commission’s competition authorities. Then there is what the euro zone governments called “horizontal structural reforms” which could signal the end of Spain’s politicised banking system. Madrid may resist on sovereignty grounds. But there’s little it can do.

Jun 11, 2012
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Euro bank rescue doesn’t have to shame Spain

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By Pierre Briancon

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

The case for the euro zone to step in and help recapitalise Spanish banks should have been a no-brainer. Spain is in a bind of its own making, but the challenge of turning its economy around has been magnified by the crisis. As for the euro zone, it has the instruments and the money to help Madrid recapitalise the country’s banks, leaving the government to tend to its own business.

Jun 7, 2012
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ECB stuck in morass of euro zone inaction

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By Pierre Briancon

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

The European Central Bank is waiting. It is waiting for further deterioration in the stagnant euro zone economy – with its 10 percent unemployment rate – before it lowers its key interest rate. It is waiting for euro zone governments to do something substantial about Greece and Spain. And it is waiting for a long-term plan for monetary and banking union before it offers the short-term measures needed to keep contagious fear from devastating the region. The ECB has long taken the euro zone governments to task – and rightly so – for their incapacity. Now it looks stuck in the same morass.

    • 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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