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EU conservative governments openly support Sarkozy re-election, claims Spiegel

Tuesday, March 6th 2012 - 01:00 UTC
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German Chancellor Merkel has campaigned next to Sarkozy in France German Chancellor Merkel has campaigned next to Sarkozy in France

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed with other conservative European leaders to help President Nicolas Sarkozy in the French election campaign by spurning his Socialist challenger François Hollande, according to the German media Spiegel.

Nicolas Sarkozy is tirelessly touring France on the campaign trail, portraying himself as a man of action and as saviour of Europe, but despite all his efforts, he is still trailing in opinion polls six weeks ahead of the presidential election.

The German chancellor has been unusually open in her support for the re-election of her French counterpart. They have walked side by side along French beaches, appeared on television together and are planning joint campaign events.

She has shown Sarkozy's Socialist challenger François Hollande the cold shoulder and that is unlikely to change in the run-up to the vote. According to information obtained by Spiegel, leading conservative governments in the EU -- those in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom -- have agreed not to receive Hollande during the campaign.

Merkel secretly agreed with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that Hollande should be shunned and apparently British Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed not to meet him.

They weren't just motivated by sympathy for Sarkozy but also because they’re angry with Hollande for saying he would seek to renegotiate the fiscal pact agreed among 25 of the 27 EU members. The agreement on fiscal discipline, pushed through by Merkel at an EU summit in December, is a central component of the EU strategy to save the euro in the debt crisis.

The leaders agreed showing any signs of support to Hollande during the campaign. Britain's Cameron, whose country has not joined the fiscal pact, also wants Sarkozy to stay in power.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the business-friendly Free Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition partner, is critical of Merkel's position. Officials close to him told Spiegel online that French-German relations could be damaged by giving the impression of any boycott against Hollande. Even though the German government disagrees with Hollande on a range of issues, it must make clear that Berlin would work with whoever was elected as French president, the officials said.

Westerwelle has been eying Merkel's interference in the French campaign with mounting suspicion. After Merkel gave a joint television interview with Sarkozy last month, Westerwelle had said: “The German government isn't a contender in the French election campaign.”

Officially, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert dismissed the report of an anti-Hollande pact. He said via Twitter that it is up to each government to decide whether to meet Hollande. Italian government sources said the speculation of a secret deal to spurn Hollande was completely unfounded.

But whatever shape the resistance to Hollande will take, it is clear that many conservative government leaders are alarmed at the prospect that the Socialist could become the next leader of Europe's second largest economy, and don't want to elevate him by giving him the red carpet treatment in advance of the election.

Merkel's involvement in the French campaign is highly unusual. Interfering in the domestic politics of another country has always been something of a taboo, even in the close Franco-German alliance. Merkel has broken with that tradition and now risks the prospect of diplomatic tensions if Hollande wins in April.

Hollande's campaign manager Pierre Moscovici has described her involvement as “irritating” and “worrisome,” and described it as unprecedented in Europe's history. He said the friendship between France and Germany must take precedence over party political interests.

Hollande himself seems relaxed about the debate, though. “If there is an alliance among the conservatives for the conservative candidate in France, this would be quite natural,” he said. But, he added only the people of France will decide on the country's future.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules

    What is Cameron doing lining up with Merkel et al to help Sarkozy ?
    Politics is a strange world.

    Mar 06th, 2012 - 04:09 am 0
  • Idlehands

    It's probably a case of “better the devil you know” where Cameron is concerned.

    Mar 06th, 2012 - 09:40 am 0
  • GreekYoghurt

    Cameron: *begs for some political or economic stability in the eurozone*

    Mar 06th, 2012 - 10:02 am 0
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