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10/12/2016

French Socialist leader teaches Germans a history lesson

Languages & Culture

French Socialist leader teaches Germans a history lesson

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis

[On n'est pas couché/YouTube]

Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, the head of France’s ruling Socialists and a close ally of President François Hollande, issued an open letter to the German people today (16 July) urging them to re-think their place in Europe.

The letter, which starts “mein lieber Freund” (“my dear friend”), shows how ties between the two EU founders have been strained over Greece, on which Germany pushed against France to demand tough bailout terms.

“Europe, my dear friend, does not understand your country’s stubbornness in blindly pursuing the path of austerity,” he wrote. “Has your country forgotten the support France gave right after all the atrocious crimes committed in your name?”

The letter goes on to list French support for Germany’s recovery from the ashes of World War Two, including the U.-backed Marshall Plan of 1947, a 1953 accord to cut Germany’s foreign-held debt, and the diplomatic green light for German reunification after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

>>Read: French Socialists inspired by Syriza victory

“Berlin should recall this history lesson just as it is giving Athens a lesson in housekeeping,” wrote Cambadélis, who has gradually shifted towards the reformist wing of the Socialist Party after starting out in far-left student politics. He is of Greek origin.

“France and Europe let Germany become the power it is today … My dear friend – Germany must pull itself together, and quickly!”

The letter comes a day after France’s parliament gave its backing to a last-minute agreement between Athens and its creditors, but only after a debate in which deep misgivings were expressed about Europe’s handling of the crisis.

Many on the French left feel that Hollande has missed a chance to oppose the austerity policies backed by Germany and other, mainly northern, EU members. Conversely, opposition conservatives accuse him of damaging Franco-German relations.

Hollande has played down differences with Germany and insisted his relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the factors that helped secure a deal averting Greece being ejected from the eurozone.