After French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's visit to Berlin, European newspapers are asking how French-German relations are holding up under the pressure of the debt crisis.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault set the tone in an interview with the German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" before he even arrived in Berlin. "There is too much anxiety in Germany" he told the newspaper regarding the financial crisis. "France does not need lectures", he said, rejecting Germany's criticism of his government's policies. Süddeutsche Zeitung comments, "The tone between Berlin and Paris is reserved, to put it mildly".
German website Spiegel Online writes about Ayrault's visit: "In the year of the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Accords, that established the era of German-French friendship, worries are growing that the crisis could harm relations between Berlin and Paris. In Berlin, left-wing Hollande is considered to be dogmatic and lack transparency. In Paris, Merkel has the reputation of being uncompromising and lacking solidarity - a 'marble lady.'"
The German financial newspaper "Handelsblatt" appreciates France's will to reform: "It was about time", the paper wrote. "Jean-Marc Ayrault made clear that reducing debt and improving competitiveness are the benchmarks of his political program. That is no Agenda 2012 à la française yet, but at least an orientation that creates a basis for a new German-French leadership of the eurozone. Nothing would be more dangerous for the common European currency then an economic drift of our neighbors and an enduring reform deadlock like in Germany in the 90s."
The French daily conservative Newspaper "Le Figaro" commented on the German-speaking prime minister: "For his first official visit in Germany, Jean-Marc Ayrault used every opportunity to show his knowledge of Germany in an attempt to dispel concerns about the economic relationship between Berlin and France", the paper wrote. "But despite the efforts of Jean-Marc Ayrault, Paris and Berlin do not yet speak quite the same language ... But they are willing to put in a little effort to understand."
The French newspaper "Voix du Nord" took a pessimistic view: "Sooner or later the two largest national economies in the eurozone will experience the effects of the plans to cut spending that were prescribed to their neighbors and customers in southern Europe", the paper wrote, "Do we have to wait until the disease infects Germany until the treatment is adjusted to the conditions of the patients?" it asked.
In an editorial titled "The time-bomb at the heart of Europe," the weekly British magazine The Economist argues that "France could become the biggest danger to Europe's single currency." For years it had been losing competitiveness to Germany, the magazine wrote. "Unless Mr. Hollande shows that he is genuinely committed to changing the path his country has been on for the past 30 years, France will lose the faith of investors—and of Germany. As several eurozone countries have found, sentiment in the markets can shift quickly. The crisis could hit as early as next year."