Ger­many wary of Fil­lon’s cosy at­ti­tude to Rus­sia

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Fran­cois Fil­lon, fron­trun­ner to be­come France’s next pres­i­dent, has sparked un­ease in Ger­many with his friendly at­ti­tude to­ward Rus­sia, which could make him an un­com­fort­able ally for Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. Fil­lon se­cured the nom­i­na­tion of the French con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans on Sun­day with a re­sound­ing vic­tory over his more mod­er­ate chal­lenger Alain Juppe. Opin­ion polls cur­rently pre­dict that he would hand­ily beat far-right Na­tional Front leader Ma­rine Le Pen in the knock-out fi­nals of next May’s pres­i­den­tial elections.

That in it­self is cause for re­lief in Ger­many, France’s tra­di­tional core EU part­ner, which has been rat­tled by the US elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, the Brexit vote and the rise of right-wing pop­ulism in Europe. “Any French pres­i­dent who is not Ma­rine Le Pen is good news for the Ger­man gov­ern­ment,” said Ste­fani Weiss, an­a­lyst on Euro­pean is­sues at think tank the Ber­tels­mann Foun­da­tion. There are other rea­sons why a Merkel-Fil­lon duo at the heart of Europe should at first glance be a good fit. Both are from the con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal fam­ily and rooted in the Chris­tian faith, he a Catholic and she a Protes­tant.

The French­man’s pledges to dras­ti­cally shake up the econ­omy and slash state spend­ing are wel­comed by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, which staunchly preaches aus­ter­ity and bal­anced books. Fil­lon, a self-pro­fessed Thatcherite, is depicted in Ger­many like a French ver­sion of for­mer Ger­man chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schroeder, who drove home painful so­cial wel­fare re­forms in the early 2000s. While deeply con­tested in those days, the poli­cies of Schroeder, a So­cial Democrat, have since been cred­ited with bring­ing down un­em­ploy­ment and mak­ing the Ger­man econ­omy more com­pet­i­tive. —AFP

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