• French people are split left and right on the EU accord (Photo: Moyan Brenn)

Majority of French oppose fiscal treaty

15.12.11 @ 10:10

  1. By Leigh Phillips

BRUSSELS - A majority of French people are opposed to the recently agreed EU plans for a fiscal compact treaty, with opposition Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande calling for a renegotiation of the text.

Some 52 percent of French people oppose the proposed fiscal compact, according to a poll by BVA and reported in the domestic regional press, while 45 percent back the plan.

Opposition and support for the fiscal compact in the country appears to be cleanly split along right-left lines, unlike in a number of other countries, where resistance to the accord is bubbling up from a variety of ideological quarters.

Some eight out of 10 left-wing voters back Socialist candidate Hollande’s aim to renegotiate the text if elected, while eight out of 10 conservative voters oppose the idea.

And 55 percent of managers back the text while just 36 percent of workers approve.

The poll comes as the discourse over the eurozone debt crisis response is hardening ahead of elections in 2012.

On Monday (12 December), Hollande announced that he would renegotiate the document.

"If I am elected president, I will renegotiate the agreement to put what it lacks today," he told RTL.

He said that he would “add what is missing”, mentioning he would push to include intervention from the European Central Bank, the creation of eurobonds and a financial relief fund.

“Finally, there must also be growth,” he added. “Without growth, we will not reach any of our objectives of deficit reduction.”

The Frenchman attacked the core concept of the new agreement, a ‘golden rule’, or balanced budget amendment that should be inscribed into constitutions, in effect preventing future governments from exercising expansionary fiscal policies.

Asked about the golden rule, the candidate said he would not vote for it “under this logic”.

Hollande however has not so far called for a referendum on the subject, a development the Irish government may be forced to accept.

Ireland

On Wednesday, Irish finance minister Michael Noonan suggested in an interview with Bloomberg that while the government must first assess whether such a plebiscite is necessary after it receives a first draft of the text some time in the coming days, he warned that any referendum would have to be not on the substance of the agreement, but on membership in the single currency.

“It really comes down on this occasion to a very simple issue; do you want to continue in the euro or not,” he said, echoing the demands of EU leaders after former Greek prime minister George Papandreou said he would hold a referendum on further austerity and structural adjustment.

At the time, EU power-brokers insisted that if a referendum were to take place, it must be a simple up-and-down vote on the euro.

“Faced with that question, I think the Irish people will pass such a referendum,” Noonan added.

The similarity of the formulation with that of demands on fellow bail-out country Greece was quickly picked up by the opposition.

“The fact that the minister’s language mirrors almost exactly the proposition used by France and Germany to scupper recent plans for a referendum in Greece will not be lost on people,” Michael McGrath, the finance spokesperson for the opposition centre-right Fianna Fail party told the newswire.

McGrath also accused Noonan of attempting to “ silence legitimate criticism” of the fiscal compact agreement.

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