The country's austerity plans and hard debt limits are fueling anger across the continent.
Who will take the fall for Europeans' frustration with Europe right now: the European Union, Germany, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel? It seems to typically be one of those three. As the French presidential election comes to a close, that's one of the crucial questions -- particularly across the border in Germany. Each of the top three French candidates has expressed dissatisfaction with Germany's leadership in the E.U. -- in fact, they're campaigning on a promise to follow Germany's lead a bit less. "Germany doesn't decide for all of Europe," frontrunner François Hollande said a few days ago.
Naturally, this quote was reported in the German papers, too, where there's an increasing awareness of the antipathy pouring eastwards. "Germany as Enemy," reads one headline for a story on the French election.
The backlash against Germany has to do with the austerity plans the country has championed, including the hard debt limits. This is certainly one of the objections the German papers, in trying to explain the French response, are focusing on. One writeup suggests that François Hollande won his 28.2 percent share of the vote in the election's first round over "his clear rejection of German austerity policy." Part of the backlash is also likely against the other major component of German economic policy: the costly bailouts for periphery countries such as Greece. It could also partially be pure resentment: as James Angelos pointed out, Germany's current economic strength is based in part on its' neighbors' economic weakness. The country maintains a trade surplus -- i.e. exports more than it imports -- and its trade relationships with other eurozone countries are particularly important for that. The euro has reinforced Germany's advantage by putting German products and non-German products side by side, with the German products often winning out on quality and, because of the shared currency, price.