EU leaders deny plot to snub Hollande
AFP PARIS EUROPE’S main conservative leaders deny any plot to snub French Socialist presidential hopeful Francois Hollande, but experts say they are nevertheless nervous about the untested candidate’s plans.
“Informed sources in Britain, even in the (opposition) Labour Party, are afraid of possible financial instability following a Francois Hollande victory, and many in the (German opposition) SPD are even more sceptical,” said John Gaffney, a French politics specialist at Aston University in Britain.
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine caused a stir last weekend by reporting that right-wing European leaders were “scandalised” by the Socialist’s declared intent to renegotiate the budgetary discipline pact signed on Friday.
They consider the pact key to rescuing the debt-stricken eurozone. Hollande, who opinion polls consistently say will easily beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the tworound vote in April and May, has also raised eyebrows by declaring that the “world of finance” is the “enemy”.
He followed that up with plans to impose a 75-percent tax rate on all income above a threshold of one million euros (1.3 million dollars).
The “plot” against Hollande has been hotly denied in Berlin, London, Madrid and Rome, but analysts and observers say there is much nervousness about the prospect of France electing a Socialist president for the first time since 1988.
“Angela Merkel considers the threat of the Socialist leader not to approve the budgetary discipline pact as a serious obstacle on the difficult road to elections” in Germany in 2013, said an editorial Monday in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Merkel’s spokesman on Monday defended her declared support for Sarkozy’s re-election, arguing his Socialist rival had also come to Berlin to back the SPD opposition.
Hollande, who has never served in government, has since December travelled to Berlin, Rome and London without meeting Merkel, Italian PM Mario Monti or British PM David Cameron.
He said on Sunday that “although I recognise that they will be my partners if I become president, I will seek to convince them to add a growth dimension to European treaties.” Taxing the rich has become a hot issue in France’s election campaign, marked by worry over the economic crisis and rising unemployment, which now stands at nearly three million in the country of 65 million people.
Hollande said it was simply “patriotism to accept to pay extra tax to get the country back on its feet again” and reverse the policies of Sarkozy that he said favoured the rich.
“In Britain his banker-bashing rhetoric of course has been noted, for understandable reasons given the importance of Britain as a partner,” said Maurice Fraser, a France specialist at Chatham House in London.