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French press review 6 December 2011

There are two ways of looking at Europe this morning . . .  

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Left-leaning Libération and right-wing Le Figaro both give pride of place to the successful conclusion of yesterday's Paris meeting between French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel.

Libération celebrates "A marriage of reason," reporting that France and Germany have finally agreed a united position on how to save the Eurozone. Basically, Thursday's European summit will be told that Europe needs a new treaty, and that the basis of that brave new world will be the French "golden rule".

This means that national debt won't be allowed to exceed 3 per cent of gross national product, and that no Eurozone country can allow its accumulated debt to grow beyond 60 per cent of GNP, two rules which, by the way, France flagrantly violates right now.

How the new rules, which are almost identical to the old rules, are going to be enforced is anything but clear. There will be monthly meetings of the heads of state of the eurozone, to chat about how things are going and to compare austerity plans.

There will also be an element of auto-regulation, with each country's equivalent of the French Constitutional Court acting as a sort of super watchdog, sending boys with baseball bats around to the Finance Ministry as soon as the 3 per cent and 60 per cent limits are breached.

Le Figaro says Sarkozy and Merkel have provided the foundations on which a new Europe can be built. A modified version of the Lisbon Treaty could be up-and-running by March. But how many member economies will actually be in a position to meet the new entry requirements? Will Greece and Italy still have functioning economies? And will the Irish, who always say "no" the first time they vote in a referendum on Europe, once again upset the continental potato cart?

The chaps at the Tokyo Stock Exchange are not convinced and have just gone home for the day, leaving their market down 1.4 per cent.

And the ratings agency Standard & Poor's has placed the six remaining triple-A Eurozone economies, including France and Germany, under scrutiny.

On inside pages, all papers welcome the return of central government to Belgium, 535 days after the last general election failed to produce a parliament.

There are six parties in the new coalition. The cabinet has just 12 ministers. And the new Prime Minister is a French-speaking Italian called Elio di Rupo. Don't expect it to last too long.

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