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French presidential hopeful François Hollande shrugs off reports of EU leaders’ boycott

Reuters/Fred Dufour

France’s Socialist party has opted for a two pronged approach in its reaction to reports in the German magazine Der Spiegel that European leaders had made a pact to refuse meetings with François Hollande.

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The candidate himself said on Monday that he did not think it particularly important whether or not such a pact existed. He declared that “it is the French people who will choose the next president, and the president who will deal with European leaders in order to create a Europe which supports its citizens.”

But a Socialist campaign spokesperson, Bernard Cazneuve issued a more strident communiqué saying “the refusal to meet François Hollande is in fact the sign of conservatives closing ranks in the face of popular movements which are simmering in Europe.”

He said that the anger of what he called the “directorate of austerity” would “simply strengthen François Hollande’s resolve to free the people of Europe from endless sacrifices”

That type of strong language will fuel worries among some EU leaders that if Hollande is elected, he will want to renegotiate significant elements of the hard-fought fiscal pact agreed at a bad-tempered EU summit in December.

Hollande has already said he wants the pact to include extra measures to boost growth.

Meanwhile Nicolas Sarkozy, campaigning for another 5 year term as president, dismissed the idea that he had asked fellow EU leaders to snub his Socialist rival.

“Other leaders, don’t you think they have better things to do than make pacts or whatever? I have never spoken to them about such a thing” he said.

It is not unusual for EU leaders of the same political family to lend support to each other, though in this election, with the euro still in difficulties, the issue has become particularly sensitive.

In Berlin, a spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel hit back at criticisms that she was too vocal in her support for Sarkozy. Steffen Seibert reminded journalists that François Hollande had participated in the German SPD (Socialist) party conference in Berlin in December, and on several occasions in his speech had said Germany should elect a new government in 2013.

It is becoming clear that the old tradition of European leaders not interfering in the internal politics of other EU countries is a casualty of the turmoil in the eurozone.

But Angela Merkel’s active support for Sarkozy and David Cameron’s good luck wishes will not necessarily help Sarkozy in his re election bid.

While many voters will see these as important endorsements in dangerous economic times, others will resent what they see as outsiders trying to influence a French election.

 

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