PARIS (MNI) – The leading candidate in France’s presidential race,
Socialist Francois Hollande, confirmed Wednesday his determination to
renegotiate the new EU fiscal compact to include measures that would
support economic growth.

“If the French elect me, I have told our partners, and notably our
German partners, that we will accept our commitment to budget
discipline,” Hollande said in a radio interview.

“But for the treaty, I said that if there is not a growth dimension
— support for activity and employment and an effective coordination of
economic policy — we will not be able to accept this treaty as it is,”
he added.

“As favorable as I am to a return to balanced public finances in
2017, with a very important step in 2013, I also say we need growth —
growth in France, by boosting production, and growth in Europe,” he

“If there is no return to growth, there will be no return to the
necessary balance of public finances — not only in France, but
everywhere in Europe,” Hollande added. “If there is no growth, we will
not achieve the goal of deficit reduction. We have to tell the French
what is possible and what is not.”

The new compact, which 25 of the 27 EU countries agreed to on
Monday night, intensifies enforcement of EU fiscal rules and requires
participating countries to pass constitutional amendments limiting their
annual public deficits to no more than 0.5% of GDP.

Hollande is well ahead of all other candidates in voter opinion
polls for the elections to be held this spring, with a lead of at least
10 percentage points in a hypothetical run-off with the incumbent
Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Socialist candidate has refused to sign on to Sarkozy’s
proposal to anchor the goal of balanced public finances in the
constitution, now one of the components of the EU “fiscal compact.”
Without the backing of the Socialists, the government does not have the
qualified majority of parliament needed for a constitutional amendment.

After Sarkozy conceded as much at the summit of EU leaders on
Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a veiled warning to the
future French president, insisting on the need for “a certain
continuity” in order for the EU to function well.

Yet Hollande believes there is support in Europe to “improve and
complete” the treaty with measures to bolster economic activity.

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said after the summit that
leaders “recognized that financial stability in itself is not enough to
get out of the crisis” and that Europe must “do more on economic growth
and employment.” EU members should focus on “growth-friendly fiscal
consolidation” and “job-friendly growth,” he said.

–Paris newsroom +331 4271 5540; email:

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