France’s Hollande Meets Merkel in Germany

Posted May 15th, 2012 at 7:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Newly inaugurated French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say they will work together on proposals to generate economic growth in Europe and avert a currency crisis.

Mr. Hollande flew to Berlin for a key discussion with the German leader shortly after his swearing-in Tuesday. During a joint news conference, the French president said he wanted to show that the friendship between the two countries is a constant. Ms. Merkel expressed faith that their nations can find solutions because both want economic development for Europe.

During his election campaign, Mr. Hollande criticized the austerity deal forged by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and the German chancellor. He said he wanted to spur growth and reduce debt without measures that hurt people. Chancellor Merkel had said the recent euro zone treaty, which imposes budget austerity among its 17 member nations, is non-negotiable.

European leaders will meet informally next week and at a summit in June.

Christopher Dickey, Paris Bureau chief of Newsweek magazine, notes that many European Union members have not yet ratified the austere stability pact and some may never do it.

“Much of the conversation about the stability pact takes place in a context in which it sounds like it's a done deal, but it's not a done deal. There are lots of countries out there who signed up for it who are not ready to ratify it and probably will never ratify it. So, Hollande is in a much stronger position politically than he had seemed to be even a few weeks ago. And I think he's going to let Angela Merkel know that.”

Mr. Hollande's first attempt to fly to Germany following his inauguration Tuesday failed after the presidential plane was hit by lightning shortly after take-off from a military air base outside Paris. No one was hurt, but the plane returned to the base, where the president boarded a second aircraft and left for Germany.

Mr. Hollande took office Tuesday in a modest and rain-soaked ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Before traveling to Germany, he named Jean-Marc Ayrault as prime minister. The parliamentary leader of the Socialist party speaks German. He is expected to name his Cabinet Wednesday.

Mr. Hollande defeated Mr. Sarkozy in a runoff election last week, becoming the country's first Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand in 1995.