“We are not the sick man of Europe,” French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici angrily protested in a recent interview. He may be right. While France and its hapless, broke Mediterranean neighbours occasionally appear to be in a kind of sick race for last place, the French have yet to fall behind Greece when it comes to levels of debt and unemployment or wretched fiscal policy.
Despised by both the left and right, François Hollande has seen his approval ratings plunge to historic lows. The French president, signalling his increasing desperation, has ordered wines from the presidential cellar at Élysée Palace be auctioned off next month to raise funds for the state budget. More than a thousand bottles will be sold, including some of the world’s rarest and most expensive champagnes. The three bottles of 1990 Château Pétrus are expected to each fetch more than $3,000; a 1975 Château Lafite Rothschild could bring $1,500. The Élysée wine cellar is a national treasure. Selling its contents is not unlike hawking the family jewels.