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Hollande hosts European social-democrat summit

French President françois Hollande with Italian Prime Minister Matteo  Renzi (C) at the Elysée presidential palace in March
French President françois Hollande with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (C) at the Elysée presidential palace in March Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France’s Socialist President François Hollande hosted a mini-summit of European social-democratic leaders in Paris on Saturday for informal talks on the priorities of the next European Commission.

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The leaders of European Union social-democratic parties agreed to back Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker as president of European Commission. 

Juncker is  the candidate of the mainstream right group in the European parliament,  the biggest after recent EU elections, but has been opposed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Hollande brought together seven of his European Union counterparts – from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - ahead of what promises to be a challenging European Council meeting in Brussels.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

And because no summit, however small, can bypass Germany, German Vice-Chancellor and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Sigmar Gabriel and fellow SDP member Martin Schulz, who leads the centre-left grouping in the European Parliament, will also be there.

While the discussions are billed as informal, Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said they would focus on Europe’s future orientation and the people who will lead it.

Hollande and Gabriel share a common vision with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, advocating growth, investment and efforts to boost youth employment.

The question of who will lead the the European Commission will doubtless be discussed ahead of next week’s Brussels summit.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is backing former Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker but British Prime Minister David Cameron, who considers him to be a federalist, has pledged to fight to his nomination to the end.
 

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