Sarkozy understands 'zero' about economics, says Bundesbank boss

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The Independent Online

Tensions on economic policy between the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, and other European leaders burst into the open at the weekend.

The president of the German Bundesbank, Axel Weber, said that M. Sarkozy had demonstrated "zero" understanding of economic realities in his constant criticism of the European Central Bank. The German and Austrian finance ministers and Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, also suggested that M. Sarkozy should concentrate on France's own economic failings, rather than keep up his constant drumbeat of complaints about the management of the euro.

Earlier, M. Sarkozy had attacked the European Central Bank and European finance ministers – and especially Mr Juncker – for their handling of the international banking crisis. He said that the decision to keep interest rates unchanged last week while injecting new cash into the banking system "benefited speculators, not entrepreneurs".

M. Sarkozy also angrily waved aside criticism by EU finance ministers of his failure to tackle the French budget deficit and his apparently inflated forecast of 2.5 per cent growth in France this year.

"I now want 3 per cent growth," M. Sarkozy said in a petulant interview with journalists on a plane returning from a trip to Hungary. He did not make it clear when he expected France to reach this target. Independent forecasts by the EU and OECD put French growth this year at well below 2 per cent.

Opposition leaders in France suggested that M. Sarkozy was picking the quarrels to distract attention from domestic problems. With the economy stuttering, he has been accused of wanting to slow his promised radical reforms of the French economy and welfare system.