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Growth not austerity, says France presidential challenger Hollande

Growth not austerity, says France presidential challenger Hollande
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The frontrunner in the race to become the next French president has made a plea for Europe to boost the economy as well as cut deficits.

The socialist candidate François Hollande said on French television that the priority should be securing growth rather than austerity.

The main challenger to President Sarkozy, he renewed his criticism of the recently agreed EU fiscal compact, saying it should include clauses on growth and job creation.

“I will not sacrifice the interests of my country. Never. And so if Europe is not capable of taking decisions, I won’t ratify – or won’t ask for the ratification – of the fiscal treaty,” Hollande said.

Another Sarkozy foe will not be standing – barring, he says, a miracle. Former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, who fought a bitter court battle with the president and rejects his vision of France, claims he has not come up with the necessary 500 signatures from elected officials ahead of today’s deadline.

De Villepin, hovering around one per cent in opinion polls, launched his own political movement two years ago but has lost much parliamentary support.

Next month’s election will see a Europe Ecology-Greens candidate. Eva Joly, currently an MEP, is also trailing in the polls but has more than 600 signatures.

In contrast, around 10 percent say they intend to vote for another MEP, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The buoyant Left-wing Front candidate has more than double the number of sponsors he needs.