Two interesting articles on the future of Germany, France and therefore Europe.
The first one comes from the Guardian (yes, that one):
The place was Washington, the year 1999, the topic for discussion progressive governance. The 21st century lay stretched out invitingly before the leaders, theirs to command. History was going their way. It seemed as though the era of the centre-left had arrived.
Six years on, how distant it all seems. Of the five who met in Washington that day to discuss how the centre-left could be the masters of the new century, soon only Tony Blair will remain. Massimo D'Alema was the first to taste defeat. Bill Clinton was next. Wim Kok lasted until 2002. In two weeks' time, when Germany becomes the 20th of the 25 EU nations with a centre-right government, Gerhard Schröder will be history too.
Central to Schröder's defeat has been a spectacular personal failure of leadership. If you are going to challenge your party, it is essential to win - as Blair did over clause four - not to lose, as Schröder has in effect done. The verdict on Schröder therefore can only be a severe one.
Having been brave enough to confront his party with the need for reform, Schröder funked the consequences. In the EU, moreover, he has allowed German interests to be increasingly hijacked by Jacques Chirac's "multipolar" delusions. The abjectness of Schröder's capitulations has been shocking. In the end he has been a disaster.
The second, about Chirac’s successor, from Bloomberg:
Nicolas Sarkozy, France's interior minister, threw down the gauntlet today.
In his speech to the youth members of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, Sarkozy, the party's president, challenged Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, saying the premier's programs don't go far enough to end the nation's economic slump.
Sarkozy, 50, has said he may run for president in 2007 to replace Jacques Chirac, 72. Academics and analysts see de Villepin, 51, as Chirac's anointed successor if he chose not to run for a third term. With his speech today, Sarkozy may have unofficially started the campaign to battle de Villepin for their party's nomination in the presidential election.
De Villepin's approval rating was 42 percent, a TNS-Sofres poll held on Aug. 24 and 25, down 6 percentage points from a month earlier. Sarkozy's approval rating slipped one point to 53 percent, the Sofres poll of 1,000 people for Le Figaro Magazine showed. Chirac's rating fell 2 points to 26 percent.