French Socialists riled by European right's 'snub pact'

4th March 2012, Comments 0 comments

The Socialist frontrunner in France's presidential election, Francois Hollande, Sunday hit out at an alleged pact between right-wing European leaders to snub him ahead of the April-May vote.

The conservative leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain agreed not to meet Hollande because of his promise to renegotiate an EU stability pact, Germany's Der Spiegel magazine said in its edition to be published Monday.

Der Spiegel said that right-wing European leaders were "scandalised" by Hollande's declared intent to renegotiate the budgetary discipline pact signed on Friday that they consider key to saving the debt-stricken eurozone.

The right-wing wall of silence would allegedly also have been agreed to bolster the reelection chances of incumbent conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, Der Spiegel said.

Hollande, who is tipped by opinion polls to beat Sarkozy -- 30.5 percent versus 23 percent in the first round -- has said he wants the treaty renegotiated to deal more specifically with economic growth and jobs.

"I'm not impressed by this report," Hollande told France 3 television. "It is the French people who will decide their own future. It won't be European leaders, who I respect, who will influence the French people's decision."

"We are a great nation, a great country, whose choices are not made by the heads of state or government of countries that are friendly but external to our democracy," he said on Sunday.

"Although I recognise that they will be my partners if I become president and I will seek to convince them to add a growth dimension to European treaties," he said.

Hollande has since December travelled to Berlin, Rome and London without meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti or British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The German government denied the existence of any such pact.

"Every European head of government independently chooses if and how they would like to receive Mr Hollande. In Germany, no meetings are planned for the time being," a government spokeswoman said, requesting anonymity.

During his campaign, Hollande has raised eyebrows but also much popular support by declaring that the world of finance is the enemy and proposed a 75 percent tax rate on all income above a threshold of one million euros.

Sarkozy's campaign spokeswoman Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said that it was "ridiculous" for Hollande "to imagine there is a plot" against him by European leaders, saying he "just has a credibility problem."

Hollande's campaign director Pierre Moscovici said the pact amounted to "conservative pressure that is unprecedented in the history of Europe."

"And one must ask what Nicolas Sarozy did for this coalition to be formed," Moscovici told RTL radio on Sunday.

Merkel last month threw her weight behind Sarkozy in his re-election battle, making clear her support during a joint television interview.

"We belong to the same political family. He supported me and it is natural that I support him in his campaign," Merkel said, recalling that Sarkozy had backed her in 2009 during her own election campaign.

She pointed out that Hollande had recently gone to Germany to address the opposition Social Democrats.

On a recent trip to London, Hollande met with Ed Miliband, leader of Britain's opposition centre-left Labour party, but not with Cameron who had earlier wished Sarkozy luck in the campaign.

Hollande himself has said he did not request a meeting with Cameron.

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© 2012 AFP

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