Of course a country that spies on its citizens spies on its allies?

American security

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors…

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called the allegations “unacceptable” and is expected to speak with President Obama over the claims.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Is there any reason to expect the United States to tell the truth about trust and honesty?

The French president called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and insisted France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security…

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders…

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims…

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after the emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims…

The NSA has come under increased scrutiny since revelations by former employee Edward Snowden…One of the files, dated 2012, is about Mr Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Mr Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement…

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Mr Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Mr Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

The main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France,” the intercept says.

“Lafayette we are here” no longer describes the arrival of American forces coming to aid of our oldest ally. France, the one nation that stood beside American rebels in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

Not anymore, man.

French parliament lifts historic ban on insulting president

A change in French law means it has now become legal to insult the French president.

Parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech.

Previously, anyone tempted to offend the head of state risked a fine.

In March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled France violated freedom of expression by fining a man for insulting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The abuse, repeating words that Mr Sarkozy himself had used previously, was a crude version of “get lost!”

The European Court said the man’s conviction and his 30-euro (£26) fine had been “disproportionate”.

The president would now need to prove there had been slander or defamation towards him.

Why am I not surprised the last presidential creep to use this law was Sarkozy?

Conservative defeats in France and Greece are matched in Germany

Pirate Party’s Torge Schmidt casts his vote
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Angela Merkel’s coalition of Christian Democrats and liberal Free Democrats lost a state election in northern Germany on Sunday, a week ahead of a much bigger regional ballot further west.

The election, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein bordering Denmark, brought gains for the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and losses for Merkel’s CDU, while the Greens and newcomer Pirate party also fared well and the liberal FDP slumped.

The result sealed a miserable evening for Merkel, both at home and in Europe. France elected a president pledged to challenge the German leader on the central precepts of her eurozone crisis management strategy.

The Greek election threw up an uncertain and destabilising outcome likely to raise further questions about Greece’s ability to comply with the stringent terms of two eurozone bailouts. Merkel’s position in Europe has been weakened recently by the collapse of her allied government in the Netherlands. Last night she also lost her main European colleague, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The defeat in Schleswig-Holstein of the same coalition she heads at the German national level comes a week before a much bigger bellwether poll in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The SPD and the Greens are also tipped to do well there…

The main opposition SPD gained almost five points to come within one point of the Christian Democrats. The Greens also gained slightly to about 15% while the maverick Pirates took 8% of the vote, complicating the attempts starting today to construct a viable new coalition. The haggling could take a while, with the favourite options being a Social Democrat-led government with the Greens and a small party representing the Danish minority, or Merkel’s CDU remaining in office in a “grand coalition” with the SPD…

The best of the political economics commentators I pay attention to – week by week through the Euro Zone wobblings – have been calling as much for refocused energy on growing the EU economy as anything else. Austerity can only accomplish so much in terms of stablizing a national or regional economy. It doesn’t do a damned thing for growth.

Some of the best minds around Wall Street and European markets know that. Not that politicians have ever been accused of having the best minds of any species.

Hollande defeats Sarkozy

Supporters of Francois Hollande fill the Place de la Bastille celebrating victory
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Socialist Francois Hollande swept to victory in France’s presidential election on Sunday in a swing to the left at the heart of Europe that could start a pushback against German-led austerity.

Hollande was set to beat conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy by a decisive 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent margin, the TNS-Sofres polling agency said in a projection based on a partial vote count.

The president conceded defeat within 20 minutes of the last polls closing at 1800 GMT, telling supporters he had telephoned Hollande to wish him good luck.

“I bear the full responsibility for this defeat,” he said. Yup!

Sarkozy, punished for his failure to rein in record 10 percent unemployment and for his brash personal style, is the 11th successive leader in the euro zone to be swept from power since the currency bloc’s debt crisis began in 2009…

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Sarkozy apparently running his campaign – in parallel to Romney?

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

France repealed a sexual harassment law on Friday on the grounds that the definition of the crime was too vague, sparking renewed debate of an issue put into the spotlight by the arrest of one-time presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn last year.

Some women’s groups said the decision, by France’s highest constitutional body, would leave victims without legal protection until a new law is penned…

Strauss-Kahn had already been rapped over a sexual relationship with a subordinate in 2008, who said she felt pressured to sleep with him, and French writer Tristane Banon filed a complaint after the New York case alleging he tried to assault her in 2003.

Junior civil service minister Georges Tron was forced to resign in June after two women who had worked for him filed sexual harassment complaints. One said the debate sparked by the Strauss-Kahn scandal had prompted her to break her silence.

Friday’s repeal of the law should eventually lead to clearer guidelines for judges. But the fact the measure goes into effect immediately means that all ongoing sexual harassment cases not yet ruled on in court will be thrown out.

It could be months – if not longer – before new legislation is adopted given that a new National Assembly, which would write the new law, will only be elected in June, following Sunday’s presidential election runoff…

A collective of more than a dozen feminist groups said victims had been “abandoned by the justice system…The message of impunity aimed at harassers is revolting…”

And a spokesman for man tipped to be France’s next president wrote in a statement that: “Francois Hollande, if elected, will commit to a new law on sexual harassment being written up and registered as quickly as possible in the parliamentary agenda.”

Seriously. Sarkozy claims he hasn’t much influence with the Constitutional Council – but, it was the conservative government which pushed to have the existing law evaluated. Just like here – he’s managed to antagonize half the electorate in one conservative blunder.

Bureaucrat advises homeless to stay indoors in cold weather

A French health minister tried to tweet her way out of embarrassing blog advice that homeless people should not go outdoors during the ice-cold snap in Europe.

Junior minister Nora Berra was ridiculed on the Internet for writing a blog at the weekend saying toddlers, old people, the sick and homeless were particularly vulnerable in times of extreme cold and should “avoid going outdoors.”

Her note sparked a flurry of Twitter messages and media reports that she was suggesting the homeless not leave home

Hundreds of people, many of them homeless, have been killed in recent days as bitterly cold weather sweeps Europe, with temperatures dropping to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) in parts of France.

The suggestion has been edited out. Of course, she won’t be too directly embarrassed because most homeless don’t have computers at hand to read her blog either. Or electricity.

Merkel and Sarkozy ask European Treaty to require nations to substitute legitimate accounting for lies

Haven’t we been here before?

Under the pressure of financial crisis and with the euro currency at stake, the two key leaders of the euro zone said Monday that they would together push to remake the European Union into a more integrated political and economic federation, with tight legal restraints on how much debt national parliaments can issue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meeting here at the start of a crucial week that will end with a European Union summit meeting on Thursday and Friday, called for amendments to European treaties that would include centralized oversight over budgets and automatic sanctions against countries that violate firmer rules on deficits…

The automatic sanctions – or threat of – are the most Neverland part of the proposals, of course. Who expects a country unable to pay sufficient bills to pay a fine for not paying those bills?

We want to make sure that the imbalances that led to the situation in the euro zone today cannot happen again,” Mr. Sarkozy told a joint news conference. “Therefore we want a new treaty, to make clear to the peoples of Europe that things cannot continue as they are.”

Mrs. Merkel, warmly embracing the French president despite their often testy relationship, insisted that the euro zone must be effectively reestablished under a different set of rules. “We want structural changes that go beyond agreements. We need binding debt brakes,” she said…

The two leaders are aiming to develop a clear consensus among the other members of the euro zone that they will push ahead with a new treaty. They appear to be calculating that such a signal of solidarity will be enough to persuade the European Central Bank, the only institution in Europe with enough financial firepower to defend the ability of member states to raise money on bond markets, that it has enough political cover to move more aggressively to protect vulnerable countries like Italy and Spain.

RTFA for the details, anecdotal hogwash, hopeful analysis – all of which ignores the fact that standards meant nothing for the several nations brought into the EU in the first place though they didn’t really meet standards. Creative analysis, voodoo economics were used to justify including countries like Greece into the club although they were miles and years away from realistic qualification.

Sarkozy tells Obama what the rest of the world already knows — Netanyahu is a liar

“Don’t eat the knishes!”
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

French President Nicolas Sarkozy branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar” in a private conversation with President Barack Obama that was accidentally broadcast to journalists during last week’s G20 summit in Cannes.

“I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, unaware that the microphones in their meeting room had been switched on, enabling reporters in a separate location to listen in to a simultaneous translation.

“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to the French interpreter…

The conversation was not initially reported by the small group of journalists who overheard it because it was considered private and off-the-record. But the comments have since emerged on French websites and can be confirmed by Reuters…

Obama and Netanyahu have had a rocky relationship as U.S. efforts to broker a Middle East peace deal have foundered, with the U.S. president openly criticizing Jewish settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It was unclear why exactly Sarkozy had criticized Netanyahu. However, European diplomats have largely blamed Israel for the breakdown in peace talks and have expressed anger over Netanyahu’s approval of large-scale settlement building.

During their bilateral meeting on November 3, on the sidelines of the Cannes summit, Obama criticized Sarkozy’s surprise decision to vote in favor of a Palestinian request for membership of the U.N. cultural heritage agency UNESCO…

The October 31 UNESCO vote marked a success for the Palestinians in their broader thrust for recognition as a sovereign state in the U.N. system — a unilateral initiative fiercely opposed by Israel and the United States.

Don’t let democracy, sovereignty, history get in the way of the relationship between a global imperial power and a regional hitman. Power, greed, are still the signal deciders in American foreign power. Choosing to work closely with a liar like Netanyahu is not a new choice.

Merkel, Sarkozy meeting to tackle Euro crisis

I’ll meet you at the Maginot Line

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will thrash out differences with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Sunday over how to use the euro zone’s financial firepower to counter a sovereign debt crisis threatening the global economy.

With the turmoil threatening to spiral into financial meltdown as the value of banks’ sovereign bond holdings slide, Merkel and Sarkozy are likely to discuss in Berlin both how to manage Greece, prevent contagion and strengthen lenders.

The implosion of Belgian lender Dexia, the first victim of the crisis, has added a sense of urgency to the talks…

Germany and France have so far been split over how to recapitalise Europe’s banks, which Ireland estimated Saturday may need more than 100 billion euros to withstand the sovereign debt crisis, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said the banks need 200 billion in additional funds.

Paris wants to tap the euro zone’s 440 billion European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to recapitalise its own banks, while Berlin is insisting the fund should be used as a last resort…

The two euro zone heavyweights have come under pressure worldwide to resolve Europe’s crisis which is roiling markets. U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday urged Europe to “act fast,” calling the common currency bloc’s crisis the largest obstacle to the United States’ own recovery.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick told Wirtschaftswoche magazine there was a “total lack” of vision in Europe and Germany in particular needed to show more leadership.

Assign the cost of “leadership” to the nations who showed the same quality when they allowed the Lehman Brothers-style accounting that brought Greece into the EU in the first place. It would be like turning the bill for the US wars in the Middle East over to the states whose congress-critters voted for them. Or handing the tab for the stimulus programs to the politicians who voted to ease oversight and regulation on mortgage banks and financial traders “because the trickle-down” would create jobs.

Yeah, I know. Ain’t likely any of these happen, right?

Sarkozy and Merkel call for economic union to save eurozone

Shall we dance?

France and Germany have set out plans to create the first “true European economic government” headed by a single appointed leader, as part of major moves to synchronise tax and spending to save the failing eurozone.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and German chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced the dramatic proposals after a two-hour mini-summit. They also called for the imposition of tighter restrictions on member country’s deficits and announced a synchronising of the tax policies of their own two countries. Sarkozy has also secured the support of Merkel for a Tobin tax – a financial tax on all international transactions – to raise funds to ease the crisis engulfing the European economy.

The establishment of an economic government for the eurozone will be regarded by eurosceptics as a political power grab for Europe. Nah – the beginning of a political power grab for Europe. There’s a small difference…

The European Council president, Herman van Rompuy, will be asked to head the new economic government, and will set and enforce a deadline for all 17 eurozone members to reduce their deficits, putting pressure on countries such as Greece and Portugal to shore up public spending.

Merkel said they had rejected for now the idea of euro bonds, which would have pooled the members states’ governments’ debts to reduce the overall risk of the eurozone,but neither leader ruled their use out in the future. George Osborne has raised euro bonds as a possible mechanism for shoring up the eurozone, but the idea was politically unpalatable in the German coalition. There was also no movement on the expansion of the zone’s €440 billion rescue fund, the European financial stability facility, seen by some as crucial to the future of the zone.

Merkel said all countries in the eurozone should enshrine balanced budgets in their constitutions. “I do not really think we can solve problems with stop-gap solutions,” she said.

Allowing mark-to-market accounting to bring the PIGS into the EU was a perfectly acceptable set of lies at the time. Acceptable to Merkel’s party, to the Tories and Blair’s tame Labour Party, acceptable our side of the pond to Uncle Sugar’s tame Democrats and Republicans.

A good time was had by all. Proprietary trades all round!