, TOKYO, Jun 9 – The crippling debt crisis that has ravaged Europe for years is finished, France’s President Francois Hollande has declared, despite high unemployment and lingering recession on the continent.
“You must understand that the crisis in the eurozone is over,” Hollande told an audience in Japan during a three-day state visit.
Hollande’s comments on Saturday came just a week after thousands of people took to the streets of European cities to vent their anger at the “troika” of international powers whose insistence on austerity is blamed for worsening their economic hardship.
There were angry scenes in Frankfurt near the European Central Bank, and in Spain and Portugal — two of the countries that have received bailouts to help them plug fiscal holes.
The troika of international lenders — the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank — have imposed strict conditions on countries such as Greece and Portugal in exchange for bailout funds.
In Greece and Spain the unemployment rate has reached 27 percent, while Portugal’s is forecast to climb to a record 18.2 percent this year.
The figures for youth unemployment are much higher.
Hollande, who was in Tokyo on the first state visit by a French president in 17 years, said Japan and Europe needed to cooperate to forge an economic partnership that would be good for both.
“I want to play a major role in getting an agreement between Europe and Japan,” he said, a reference to free trade negotiations that have recently been given the nod.
A Japan-Europe partnership “would be economically good for Europe and good for Japan.”
During his visit, Hollande was generous in his praise of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bid to reignite growth in the torpid Japanese economy, a policy dubbed “Abenomics”, which he said Friday was “good for Europe”.
The prescription blends big fiscal spending, easy money and structural reforms intended to make it easier to do business in Japan.
In the six months since Abe came to power, Japan’s stock market has boomed and the value of the yen has slid, giving hope to the country’s beleaguered exporters and sending his approval ratings soaring.
For some in austerity-weary Europe, Abe’s recipe seems much more appealing than more of the same budget-cutting that Germany — the continent’s paymaster — insists on.
On Saturday, Hollande said Japan and Europe face the same challenges and must follow the same path to regain confidence and boost growth.
“We must act quickly and efficiently,” he told his audience. “This is what Shinzo Abe wants for Japan, this is what I want for France.
“If we work together in Europe and if you, the Japanese make an effort to participate in this new dynamic, together we can change things.
“Seeing Japan committed to a policy of growth is encouraging. We need stable, sustainable and controlled growth.”