A number of observers of French politics have criticized the tepid and ineffective mien of François Hollande as he has refused to aggressively support Greece in her ongoing negotiations with Germany. President Hollande has demonstrated on countless occasions that he is made of a wobbly caramel pudding with a soft-center. Nevertheless, I would offer a modest defense of Hollande’s inability to rise to the occasion on this particular occasion.
Frankly, it occurs to me that it may no longer be possible for him to do anything at this point. In 2012, Hollande had the potential to gather other EU countries (several with governments of the center left) many possible allies around him to support his challenge of German hegemony. There were a number of EU countries (including several with governments of the center-left) suffering under austerity that might have been interested in joining with France. Perhaps of even greater importance were popular anti-austerity movements such as Occupy and Los Indignados who could have contributed vast numbers of “foot-soldiers” and their tremendous energy.
Tragically, Hollande didn’t have the courage to seize that moment. Today, all of the governments of the center left have fallen on their swords through their unwavering support of austerity. Under Hollande, the French government has morphed into a pro-austerity, pro-supply side economics proponent of austerity.
The left is shell-shocked and incapable of action. The popular movements have been crushed and dispersed. It would be difficult for even a beloved and charismatic figure to re-energize them for this fight; for Hollande it would be impossible.
Consequently, Hollande is in no position to threaten Germany’s dominant position or its control over the institutions of the EU. Even if he wanted to fight, I think Hollande has left it for much too late. The great irony is that the mechanism created to end the struggle for hegemony has made Germany the unquestioned ruler of Europe.