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A case of deja vu in France?

The food and wine is exemplary and the French display a flair in all manner of ways, but things aren't good in the country.   

"France’s Third Republic lasted 70 years, but it is most remembered for its disastrous performance between the 20th century’s two world wars when a succession of governments — no fewer than 34, to be exact — stubbornly refused to recognize a changing world.

Its failure to adjust, first to the Depression, then to German rearmament, not only highlighted the weakness of an entrenched, self-serving ruling class, but also created a void that, by the 1930s, was filled by extremists of left and right.

Historical parallels are always risky, but it is nonetheless alarming to hear echoes of the Third Republic in France today. Within Europe, France appears to have lost its place as an equal partner to Germany, a disturbing development since for over half a century the Franco-German entente served as the principal pillar of European stability.

But France’s real problems lie at home. And the principal one of these is fear of change. It is not a new fear. Previous governments backed off after proposed social and economic reforms brought massive street protests. President François Hollande, whose Socialist government took office 13 months ago, created his own headache by promising change without pain — or rather pain for the rich, but not for the massive public sector that is the principal obstacle to change.

The result so far has been a renewed recession, no letup in the steady rise in unemployment, an exodus of the wealthy and deepening disillusionment with the government.

At this stage of his five-year term, Hollande enjoys the lowest popularity of any French president since the Fifth Republic was founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1958. His gamble is that he can reverse the country’s economic decline in good time to contemplate reelection in 2017."


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