Hollande greets Merkel with demands for growth plan


France's newly elected President, François Hollande, stepped up his demands for more economic growth in Europe during his first meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel last night and insisted that a switch away from mere austerity policies was essential to help crisis-ridden Greece remain in the eurozone.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Berlin following talks held hours after Mr Hollande's inauguration, the two leaders stressed their commitment to supporting Greece in the run-up to the country's forthcoming second round of crucial elections.

But whereas Chancellor Merkel claimed that both France and Germany were committed to doing their utmost to prevent Greece from abandoning the euro, Mr Hollande insisted that Europe's answer to the crisis in Athens had to be growth.

"We need to say to Greece that Europe is ready to support growth," he said, adding: "We have to show that growth is not only a word but something which is followed by tangible acts."

The two leaders announced their intention to hold an emergency Franco-German summit on the euro crisis on 23 May.

Mr Hollande said "all options" would be discussed and put on the table. Ms Merkel has flatly refused to concede to Mr Hollande's demands that the fiscal pact be renegotiated to incorporate growth elements. However she has suggested that an additional agreement which would encourage growth could follow.

The Chancellor said that last night's initial meeting between the two leaders had enabled them to get to know each other and that, despite their different views on Europe, she looked forward to working together with Mr Hollande.

And if the rain spoiled his big day in Paris, it was lightning that nearly stopped the more serious business of the day.

The new President's plane was hit by lightning shortly after taking off from Paris en route forcing Mr Hollande to return to Paris and take off again in another plane.