With the French and Italian leaders meeting for a bilateral summit in Lyon it was a perfect opportunity to get them face-to-face to answer a range of questions on Europe’s current preoccupations.
Challenged on the eurozone’s financial and monetary policies François Hollande insisted they were now bearing fruit, while Mario Monti said Greece was already better off.
“There are no more doubts about the eurozone. We could have wondered, a few months ago, if the eurozone was about to implode, or the exchange rates rocket,” said Hollande, while Monti measured Greek success more by what could have happened:
“We can say that Greece failed to do, or wasn’t fast enough in doing all we asked for, in order to get back on its feet. But the glass is also half full: If Greece wasn’t part of the euro, I believe it would have never started all these structural reforms, all this discipline,” he said.
Foreign policy remains an EU weak point. The two men were shown news footage from the recent Gaza crisis; observers again might sneer those critical of Europe’s role in the Middle East.
“Too many European states are willing to let the USA decide for them,” said Hollande bluntly. “I’m sorry, but no. We need common defence, security and foreign policies. That is our ambition.”
In conclusion they were asked a more personal question. What kept two men like them awake at night?
“There are so many subjects that give us sleepless nights; we couldn’t just choose one,” smiled Hollande.
“I’m head of government, not head of state so maybe that is why I can sleep pretty well at night”, said Monti. “Because, when you know that you have done your very best, even in very difficult conditions, then you manage to sleep well”.