Hollande’s Policy on Europe Relatively Unclear before Legislative Elections

President François Hollande’s election has been welcomed by many in the European press as the beginning of a new era, marking the end of the “Merkozy” program of austerity. The debt crisis continues to shake up the European Union, and the parliamentary elections in Greece on May 6 were only the latest episode in an already unstable financial market. But can Hollande’s European policy be reduced to his willingness to renegotiate the “Fiscal Compact”?

Foreign policy, as well as European Defense policies, were notably absent from the electoral campaign for the Presidency of the French Republic. Since the transfer of power from former President Sarkozy to Hollande, the government has been cautious regarding issues such as European policy. Hollande has come to power at a time when Europe is experiencing its worst economic crisis since 1929, and he is considered by Mario Rajoy, Mario Monti and David Cameron to be the only one who will be able to influence Angela Merkel to change her positions. He is often described as the spiritual son of Jacques Delors. François Hollande has threatened not to ratify the treaty regarding fiscal stability, cooperation and governance, supported by Angela Merkel. He has also declared that he would like to expand the Franco-German Executive to other European countries. He would choose to raise such issues such as European Defense and would focus on EU policy, mistreated, in his opinion, by his predecessor.

During the campaign, François Hollande was very vague on these issues. He declared his wish to reconcile the “no-ists” and the “yes-ists” of the Treaty for the European Constitution. This resulted in a surprising decision to appoint Laurent Fabius at the Quai d’Orsay at a time when strengthening European links is now a unanimous priority. He has become a central figure in Europe and internationally, having the audacity to impose a section on growth in the fiscal pact.

The press was very vocal when Angela Merkel and Sarkozy jointly condemned the “irresponsible person” as a cause for the crisis.  It soon became clear that a policy of restricted spending would cause the debt to worsen if it were not accompanied by proactive stimulus. François Hollande had expressed early-on his beliefs that this plan also had to be paired with a growth package. This is a position that more and more European and foreign leaders have adopted recently. Even though many disagree on the means to economic recovery, growth measures are now unanimously perceived as a necessity, even by Angela Merkel. These stimulus policies must be paired with institutional developments within the EU; the idea of federalism is now central even if its meaning varies depending on the leaders. We do not know, however, what the man who precipitated this change of opinion thinks about the issue. One can suspect François Hollande to be a federalist, but he has never expressed himself on the subject. What his federalism represents is yet to be defined. Generally, in the realm of federalism,  federalizing the European economy goes hand-in-hand with federalizing European politics. On this issue, it is interesting that neither François Hollande, nor his foreign minister, nor his Minister Delegate for European Affairs, nor the great figures of the Socialist party, have said a word.

 

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