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The Soft Underbelly of Europe's "Hard Core"

France and Germany used to see themselves as the European Union's "hard core," surrounded by concentric circles of less committed partners. Only the other four founding members of what was the European Community--Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg--were admitted into the innermost circle of Europe's true believers.

No doubt, the post-WWII reconciliation between France and Germany--who once perceived and fought each other as "hereditary enemies"--has been the motor of European integration for half a century. Today, however, that Franco-German couple looks more like Europe's soft underbelly. The motor has turned into a brake.