In less than two months time voters in France will head to the polls to elect the next President of the Republic. Conventional wisdom is that Socialist party candidate François Hollande, who is far ahead of President Nicolas Sarkozy in the opinion polls, will prevail. But nothing is certain in French politics, particularly where the Socialist party is concerned. They haven’t had a candidate win the presidency since the days of Mitterrand, 17 years ago. What will the election of Monsieur Hollande mean for France, if he wins and more importantly the impact on the wider European community?
After months of uncertainty in the Euro zone, and the replacement of two democratically elected governments in Italy and Greece, with technocratic Prime Ministers Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos, some believe one small hurdle has been passed in terms of fixing the mess. Although poll after poll has shown that Europeans are dissatisfied with the minimal progress that has been made, and the frustration from across the pond- to get things sorted. European leaders seem to have temporarily calmed the storm, though grey clouds still float dangerously low. The Greek government has been ‘encouraged’ to carry through huge austerity measures; in return the EU will give €170 billion to help prop up their flagging economy. Through all of this President Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany (the string-pullers of the EU) have forged a close, strong working relationship. Thus far they have together averted the possible disaster of a Greek default, and withdrawal from the Euro zone. Their plan to introduce new EU Fiscal Rules has been met with much optimism and hope (except from our very own Mr. Cameron who vetoed the treaty in December 2011, as it was “not in the UK’s interest”). What of Mr. Hollande who is threatening to re-negotiate this Fiscal Compact? If he is to become Mr. President where does he fit in this equation? Especially as he would wish to implement a much more radical agenda in Europe, one that many in the 17 member Euro zone community night not be able to stomach.
Mr. Hollande managed to turn heads all around Europe this week when he announced plans to tax those in France who earn over €1 million (£689,106) a year, a top rate of 75%. An extraordinary pledge in itself. And when visiting London this week (the 6th largest French city, with 300,000 expatriates) Hollande smiled gleefully about his plans for more regulation on the City of London, something our dear Prime Minister certainly doesn’t want to hear. It’s not surprising therefore that Mr. Hollande didn’t get the warm welcome from Cameron that he had hoped, obvious really as the latter all but endorsed his opponent Sarkozy earlier this month at a meeting of the two in Paris.
It was left to Labour leader Ed Miliband to welcome Hollande (the probable next President of France) to the UK. Seeing these two leaders of the Left on the BBC News at 6pm, I was left wondering, if it might in fact take these two socialists to save the Euro zone from complete collapse.