In the central French town of Le Blanc shopkeepers are happy to
take French Franc banknotes for anything they sell · and
they do a roaring trade. What might they know that we don't?
Indeed shopkeepers in this town of 7000 souls in the Indre département
gleefully rake in French Franc banknotes for anything they sell
· and they do a roaring trade. For with euro-strain on
the gain and the 11-year old eurozone under intense speculative
attack and looking vulnerable, some think they may be in the vanguard.
Pointing to a poster in a local trader·s window ·Pay
here in francs· Sylvie Auteau-Moënne-Loccoz chairman
of the local traders· assocation says: ·When I first
broached the idea, three years ago, people thought I was bonkers.
Ten traders agreed initially but today 39 out of 80 participate,
the scheme is a success·.
The francs they accept are collected by the association and exchanged
at the Banque de France in Limoges with traders reimbursed in
euros. ·Franc banknotes can be redeemed until February
17, 2012. The town hopes to have collected 2 million francs (or
300,000 euros) by then·, she says.
But if the euro were to fail, Le Blanc·s shopkeepers may
yet come to be regarded as prudent beyond their wildest imagination.
Euro-fans and Euro-sceptics are out in force and currency speculators,
driven on by successful bets against a profligate Greece, are
having a field day. The EU·s politicians dither while the
man in the street fears for his savings, his family·s wealth
and well-being, his pension and his children·s future.
"We're all ruined"
Reports in the European media demand strong political leadership
to end the crisis in the world·s largest economy ·
the EU accounts for 22% of global economic activity · while
all acknowledge the tensions affecting the eurozone were well-charted
when euro was first introduced. Indeed economists like Jacques
Attali, a one-time adviser to the French president, said at the
time the euro would only work if economic union and political
union became one happily married couple.
Now in a recent TV interview, Attali, who once headed up the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), said
in its current framework the euro had every chance of disappearing.
His latest book Tous ruinés dans dix ans?, (All of us ruined
within the decade?) suggests that to survive, the euro needs a
new architecture namely a European Finance Minister controlling
a European budget for a Federal government of Europe. Needless
to say his views are not warmly embraced in certain European chancelleries.
However as the global economy totters towards what some fear will
be another and more severe collapse of international banks, there
is a consensus that all affected nations must cut public spending
and raise taxes.
As one commentator noted recently: ·First came Greece,
with its clampdown on outrageously generous public-sector pay
and conditions. Then came Spain, as its construction-led economy
ground to a halt. Portugal was bound to follow and fellow ·
·Club Med· economy Italy came soon after. But then
Britain, France and even Germany started talking tough on deficit
reductions. America views all this with concern, fearing Europe,
one of its main trading zones, is talking itself into an economic