France Edges Toward Bankruptcy
POLITICS 10/06/2039 5:27 AM ET
France Edges Toward Bankruptcy
Michel Pouris
Deputy editor, Global Economic Affairs

CC BY-SA 4.0 - image changes released under same license Irish Delegation Bahrain by Conor McCabe | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 So Strong . . . So Proud . . . by David Robert Bliwas | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
Members of the French delegation prepare to speak to the media.
French negotiators today walked out of a meeting with EU officials designed to solve its spiralling debt woes.

Jacques LaPeron, leader of the French delegation, spoke to the media assembled today, lambasting what he described as "a self-righteous and haughty" German-dominated team.

"We have contributed our share to the Europe project," he said, "and now we come to you asking for a little help, and are told, 'sorry, but the door is shut'".

LaPeron railed at the process, which has so far failed to see France out of its economic crisis.

"From the start, we have come in good faith, because we are Europeans. But always, it is, we have to give more, we have to tighten our belts so that our people cannot even live human lives anymore," he remarked, referring to pressure from Germany and Scandinavian EU nations.

France has been admonished for indulging its population instead of facing its problems realistically.

Last month, German Chancellor Ansel Weber spoke of French resistance to belt-tightening, saying, "We must be firm with our French brothers and sisters...we must say to them, 'you have to draw a line' and to be fair to the rest of us'".

Such rhetoric has not been taken well in Paris and has been met with a stubborn refusal to tow what many French see as an unfair line.

France's problems stem from an ageing population, largely due to a long-term decline in the fertility rate in native-born French women. In 2030, French women were bearing on average 1.8 children, far short of the minimum rate necessary for population growth. An ageing population has strained the French welfare system, creating larger deficits; last year's budget allocated €800bn or 50% of GDP to its social safety net.

The declining birth rate contributed to the decision in 2025 to reach out to developing countries after eight years of brutally closing French doors to immigration. However, France found the large pool of immigrants fleeing conflict in Nigeria and Libya did not match the young professionals they were seeking.

France's ruling Parti Socialiste admitted 800,000 mostly African immigrants, who required significant public expenditure to support.

Many reactionaries on the right have linked the increase in immigration from predominantly Muslim countries to the frequent terror attacks France has endured. But it is clear that regardless, the public has forced the government's hand on funding counter-terrorism in the past five years. 2029's stunning demolition of the Arc de Triomphe by ISIS-linked terrorists outraged the French people, who demanded a dramatic response.

Today intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism infrastructure alone takes up 5% of GDP.

So far, the Germans have provided no timetable for French acquiescence on the issue of austerity, being content to offer advice, however firm the wordplay.

How long France retains its patience, is another matter entirely.
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