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'Hollande has to act now'

French President Francois Hollande has dissolved the government over infighting about the country's stagnant economy. The upcoming reshuffle comes as no surprise to Frank Baasner, head of the German-French Institute.

France was in the throes of a political crisis on Monday after President Francois Hollande told Prime Minister Manuel Valls to form a new government. The country has had effectively no economic growth this year, Hollande's approval ratings are dismal, and the country is under pressure from the EU to get its finances in order.

DW: Professor Baasner, has this resignation been brewing?

Frank Baasner: Over the last few weeks, again and again, the left-wing members of this government attacked the president and the prime minister. It's not the whole government that is resigning - even if legally it is - but a specific attempt now to form a new government without those disturbing elements.

Frank Baasner

EU leaders are closely watching developments in France, Baasner says

Who are the disturbing elements?

There is the very well-known Arnaud Montebourg, the economics minister, who has always attacked the budget discipline policy in the EU - and now, again, made a very harsh attack against the politics chosen by Francois Hollande and Manuel Valls. It's likely that he'll be out of the government in the next phase.

Is Montebourg the real reason for the reshuffle?

He is the best-known reason. But Hollande has been attacked by the Greens - former Minister Cecile Duflot published a book against him - and by the left wing of his own party, and parts of the other left-wing parties in France. If he wants to maintain a minimum of authority, he has to act now. I was more astonished that he didn't do it earlier, in April, when Valls came in as prime minister.

What are the immediate consequences for the government?

Inside the Socialist Party, there are some who no longer wanted to defend this budget discipline policy chosen by Hollande and Valls, and Valls will now have to make sure he has a majority in his own camp. Of course he might also - but this is just an idea - try to get some support from the center members of parliament.

There is, then, not going to be a complete reshuffle, but just a few new ministers - including a new economy minister. Any ideas who that might be?

No. But in France, as in other European countries, very often it's a game not about competence, but about opportunities. Maybe it's a person within the group surrounding Hollande who will take over this responsibility. Maybe he'll try to bring in an expert - that's another possibility to really change things. Someone who has a reputation in international affairs and has credibility in French public opinion.

The choice of France's next economy minister - is this something the other EU states are watching with interest?

Absolutely. We have an EU summit coming up at the end of the week, and if there is a stronger, new French government with a strong and credible and well-known economy minister, that will help France be credible.

If there is a weakening process in this government, it will of course not be good for Francois Hollande, who wants to convince European partners to do something for more growth. But the new government will certainly be more coherent with regard to the path that Hollande has chosen.

Frank Baasner is the director of the German-French Institute Ludwigsburg.

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