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5th Mar 2024

Hollande makes low-key debut on EU stage

France's president-elect has made a low-key debut on the EU stage in talks with EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy and Irish leader Enda Kenny.

Van Rompuy held a 50-minute-long tete-a-tete with Francois Hollande at his Socialist party's election campaign headquarters in Paris on Wednesday (9 May).

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  • Hollande is to be sworn in as president one day before he meets Merkel next week (Photo: Francois Hollande)

Hollande spokesman Pierre Moscovici told press the two men already know each other and "have a good relationship." He added: "There was a very positive and deep exchange of views ... on the euro zone, with the Greek crisis at its heart, and the growth strategy."

"Everyone feels more and more that the euro zone is in crisis and we need to define a growth agenda together with what is now a will shared by everyone to get there, even if voices are different at the moment ... There is a will to find a dynamic compromise for growth in Europe, which is completely vital."

Hollande on the same day held a 15-minute-long phonecall with the Irish taoiseach.

On the Irish phonecall, Moscovici revealed only that they covered Ireland's upcoming referendum on the EU's pro-austerity fiscal discipline treaty.

He added that Hollande - who in his election campaign said the treaty should be renegotiated to include growth stimuli - "does not wish to interfere in the democratic consultation by referendum in [Ireland] ... Of course we wish that the Irish referendum will be a success."

Hollande will on Thursday in Paris also meet Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing chief of the euro-using countries' club, the eurogroup. "He will tell him we need to get away from this focus on austerity which Europe is getting stuck in and which leads to stagnation," Jean-Marc Ayrault, tipped to become Hollande's prime minister, told French media.

The flurry of high-level consultations will come to a head when Hollande meets the EU's biggest pro-austerity advocate, Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin, one day after he is sworn in as the new French leader in Paris on 15 May.

The pair are expected to discuss the potential creation of a parallel EU agreement on growth to sit alongside the fiscal discipline pact. Any Franco-German deal will then be floated at EU-27-level at an informal EU summit in Brussels on 23 May.

"We have understood Mr Hollande and his advisers that we can complement the fiscal treaty without new negotiations. We can talk about growth measures based on sustainable budget policies, but there is no doubt that what was agreed remains fixed," Peter Altmaier, the chief whip of Merkel's CDU party noted.

For their part, the German opposition Greens and centre-left SDP factions on Wednesday suggested that France, Germany and Italy should ratify the fiscal discipline pact on the same day ahead of the EU summit in order to boost confidence on European unity in financial markets.

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