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Jan 31, 2012
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EU must learn to cope with new German leadership

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

It wasn’t the most subtle idea ever developed by German diplomats. The suggestion that a special euro zone commissioner might take control of Greece’s budget was met in Athens with predictable outrage. Athens has failed to implement its bailout programme, and hasn’t done anything to combat the scourge of tax fraud. Europeans everywhere are tiring of pouring into Greece the money its own citizens are sending abroad. But the Kommissar proposal’s insensitivity is a reminder that the new lone German leadership of the euro zone will need some adjusting.

Jan 24, 2012
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French socialist picks fight with faceless finance

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By Pierre Briançon

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

French bankers, traders and hedge fund managers should resist the urge to book a one-way flight out of Paris if François Hollande becomes president in May. The French socialist leader has identified the “world of finance” as his main adversary – simultaneously discarding outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy and stealing a theme from his upcoming campaign. Tapping into anti-bank sentiment is a popular political strategy. But the wrath of blind punitive socialist justice isn’t about to descend on French finance. In fact the serious reforms Hollande proposed aren’t particularly scary, and the scary ones he hinted at aren’t serious.

Jan 18, 2012
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France is capable of wasting a good ratings crisis

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By Pierre Briançon

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

France’s two main political parties have greeted the long-expected Standard & Poor’s ratings downgrade in a depressingly familiar way. The socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande said that it was Nicolas Sarkozy’s policies, not France, which was downgraded. In return, the French prime minister Francois Fillon suggested Hollande submit his electoral platform to S&P for evaluation. Bickering and escapism are the order of the day, and France is on track to waste what could have been a good ratings crisis.

Jan 5, 2012
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EU can’t afford to be soft on Hungary

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

A year ago the European Union sat in unease as Hungary took over its rotating six-month presidency term. Viktor Orban, the country’s prime minister, was already starting to make good on the populist promises that had given his party a two-third parliamentary majority. He was taxing foreign companies, threatening banks and silencing the media with a law making “lack of objectivity” an offence. He was also preparing to put serious limits on the central bank’s independence. EU officials and member governments expressed “concerns”, and Orban toned down the rhetoric.

Jan 4, 2012
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France is heading for a major spring crisis

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

France is heading for a major political and financial crisis in the spring that could dwarf the big Italian euro scare of 2011. Next May’s quasi-simultaneous elections of a new president and parliament may well spark the conflagration.

Jan 4, 2012
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2012: the year citizens will pronounce on the euro

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

Euro zone governments want to save their currency. In 2012, citizens must decide whether they agree. Forget for a moment about the ECB’s bazooka or other instruments of mass disruption. Ignore Italy’s 7 percent bond yields, and debt topping 125 percent of gross domestic product. After a series of national crises or rebellions, and government changes across the European landscape, the euro zone is nearing the crucial moment when its citizens from Lisbon to Leipzig must choose whether they’re ready to do what it takes to keep the single currency alive.

Dec 29, 2011
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Bini Smaghi’s ambiguity advice is welcome

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

On the eve of his departure from the European Central Bank, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi is delivering a welcome reminder of what the modus operandi of such an institution should be: pragmatism in a little bit of mystery. The only thing that counts, Bini Smaghi says in an interview with the Financial Times, is the mandate – price stability. But the central bank can, and should, keep an open mind about the means it uses to accomplish its mission.

Dec 14, 2011
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Prokhorov no torch-bearer for Russia’s reformers

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

Financial markets feel the oligarchs’ pain. This week investors have been punishing companies whose owners are deemed a bit too close to Vladimir Putin. It’s as if they remember the Russian president’s original bargain with the robber barons – you can keep the money, but don’t get near politics. Genuine democratisation could leave Russian billionaires’ past and present deals open to more intense scrutiny than ever before.

Dec 13, 2011
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France is serial loser in unfolding euro drama

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

Once again Nicolas Sarkozy has made the world believe he scored a great success at a European summit. But once again, this was thanks to diverting attention away from the substance of the talks to a third-party drama where he played the tough guy. In the latest instance, he used the opportunity provided by the unprecedented diplomatic amateurishness of a UK prime minister. Sarkozy may have fooled pundits and part of French opinion. But the bigger truth is that France has lost to Germany on all the important arguments about how best to fight the euro crisis.

Dec 12, 2011
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Euro zone gets tighter as Europe splits further

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

In the end, it was neither a bazooka nor a breakup. Those who expected more drama from the euro zone summit may find the potentially far-reaching fiscal reforms agreed by its leaders rather pedestrian. The long-term plan does not address investors’ immediate concerns about some countries’ debt burdens. But together with improved bailout resources, and the European Central Bank’s support of the banking sector, the package could give governments time to prove they have become serious. If, that is, they start implementing the plan quickly.

    • 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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