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French prime minister tries to head off revolt over euro stability pact

Reuters/Regis Duvignau

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to nip a brewing revolt over the European stability pact in the bud at the ruling Socialist Party’s annual summer school this weekend. Some left-wingers in the party, as well as some Green MPs, are thinking of voting against the treaty when it comes before the National Assembly.

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Party National Secretary Martine Aubry, who is expected to quit her post soon, has told would-be opponents to ask themselves what they are doing in the government.

Ayrault did not go that far when he addressed Young Socialists on Saturday at a meeting during the Socialist Party's summer school in La Rochelle.

But he did tell anyone who had doubts about backing the government’s Europe policy to “really think it over”.

The party’s left agree with the Green Party, EELV, which has two ministers in the government, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Front, which kept out of the coalition, in opposing the so-called “golden rule” that obliges eurozone countries to balance their budgets.

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The lack of flexibility would mean the sort of austerity policies that President François Hollande said he opposed during his election campaign, they argue.

The treaty is not the “alpha and omega of our policy”, Ayrault told the meeting but the Socialists and their allies should vote for it to ensure that “when François Hollande represents France at European summits … he arrives with a majority of citizens behind him”.

Trying to fend off discontent over the limited reforms that the government has so far put through, Ayrault declared that he was in favour of a “left that can last” and didn’t want to rush into decisions “without thinking”.

Coming up on the government’s agenda, Ayrault promised, are the long-awaited law banning politicians from holding several elected posts simultaneously, as well as the legalisation of gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

The last two points have run into opposition from the Catholic church but split the right-wing opposition.

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