First meeting between François Hollande and Angela Merkel to be 'cautious, polite and friendly'

 

Paris

Anyone, especially anyone in Greece, hoping for a Franco-German showdown over “growth” when François Hollande meets Angela Merkel today will be disappointed.

The first encounter between the newly installed French president – his in-tray already overflowing despite his inauguration coming only today - and the German chancellor will be cautious, polite and ostentatiously friendly. Within hours of Mr Hollande’s inauguration, the two leaders will spar, without coming to blows, on the new French leader’s plans to rekindle “growth” and “hope” in the European Union.

Far more significant, in the short term, will be Mr Hollande’s first public comments on the Greek crisis at their joint press conference in Berlin this evening. Will the new French president signal, as some in Athens hope, an end to the old “Merkozy” hard-cop-hard-cop, double act on the harsh conditions of the bailout for Greece?

The answer is almost certainly “no”. On his first day in office, Mr Hollande will seek to prove to Ms Merkel and the markets that – to quote his words when he arrived at London St Pancras station on 29 February – “I am not dangerous”. 

Mr Hollande, who will be installed in a solemn ceremony at the Elysee (acute on middle e) Palace this morning, is an opponent of the “all-austerity” approach to solving the European debt crisis. That does not mean that he approves a softening of the Greek bail-out terms, which would lead to “me too” demands from Ireland and Portugal and to a market debacle for the Euro.

The new French president apparently agreed in his informal meetings with EU chiefs last week that Greek people cannot have their baklava cake and eat it. In other words, that they cannot stay in the euro while abandoning attempts to restore Greece’s chaotic state finances.

Mr Hollande is anxious that his policies and those of the radical, anti-austerity Left in Greece should not be muddled. The fact that the French and Greek elections occurred on the same day has already led to confusion in the international media, according to the Hollande camp.

Alexis Tsipras, the virulently anti-austerity leader of the radical left Greek party, Syriza, asked to meet Mr Hollande last week. The French president-elect refused.

Mr Hollande sees himself as an apostle of “growth” through Keynsian-type infrastructure spending. He does not, however, see himself as a let-it rip advocate of swollen public budgets and deficit-spending.

Despite the poor forecasts from Brussels last week on the French and European economic outlook, Mr Hollande remains committed to reducing the French deficit to 3 per cent of GDP next year and to zero by 2017.

On the question of Mr Hollande’s ideas for kick-starting growth, he and the Chancellor remain divided but perhaps not quite so divided as they seem. Ms Merkel’s refusal to “reopen” the EU fiscal discipline treaty can be circumvented by agreeing a second text on “growth”. 

In its own proposals last Friday, Berlin moved cautiously towards Hollande-type ideas for multi-billion euro, EU-wide infrastructure programmes financed by an expanded budget for the European Investment Bank

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project