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27.04.2012, 15:48 TheGuardian.co.uk

Angela Merkel and François Hollande on collision course over EU finances

Angela Merkel and François Hollande on collision course over EU finances

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has set the course for a confrontational relationship with François Hollande if the Socialist politician becomes French president on 6 May.

Merkel said on Friday that she was not prepared to bow to his desire to renegotiate the framework for EU budgetary discipline.

Merkel faces increasing isolation in Europe if Hollande is elected because she will lose her main conservative ally, Nicolas Sarkozy.

She fiercely defended the fiscal pact that has been agreed by 25 European governments, and said it would not be open to alteration.

"The fiscal pact has been negotiated, it has been signed by 25 government leaders and has already been ratified by Portugal and Greece," she told the WAZ media group in an interview.

"Parliaments all over Europe are about to adopt it. Ireland has a referendum on it at the end of May. It cannot be negotiated anew."

Hollande responded swiftly to the remarks, telling French TV: "It's not Germany that decides for the whole of Europe."

He said he had also received "signals" from other governments in Europe that they felt similarly, "even the conservative ones".

Hollande has insisted he will ask for changes to the agreement if he is elected, arguing that the current austerity measures are too harsh and will stifle growth and recovery. He would prefer Europe to take on more debt, a position which Merkel wholeheartedly rejects.

Merkel told WAZ that while growth was important, it "has long since become the second pillar of our policies", alongside a solid financial position.

Merkel's concern is that a win for Hollande might prompt other EU countries to retreat from the austerity measures agreed upon only after much tortuous negotiation.

Merkel was the leading supporter of the pact, urging her more reluctant EU counterparts to adopt it because she argued it would deal with the root causes of the eurozone crisis.

Hollande has said some government leaders are simply waiting for the French election to conclude before revisiting the subject.

Asked what he would say to Merkel in the event of his victory, Hollande said: "I would tell her that the French people have made a choice, which envisages a renegotiation of the treaty."

Merkel, who has enthusiastically thrown her support behind Sarkozy's re-election campaign, insisted she would work well with whoever won the French presidency, calling both candidates "pro-European".

But she added she supported Sarkozy's re-election because they both belonged to the same political family and had both "worked reliably together for the good of Europe" during the debt crisis.

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