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Blog Posted in avatar   Johnny Summerton's Blog

Are some European leaders deliberately snubbing French presidential candidate François Hollande?

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Mar 5, 2012 in Politics
What an idea!
Of course there's absolutely no substance to the report in the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, that some European leaders have agreed collectively "not to meet the French Socialist party's presidential candidate, François Hollande, when he comes to their respective countries."
The agreement, according to Der Spiegel, is between Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime minister of Italy and Spain, Mario Monti and Mariano Rajoy.
They've apparently promised to snub Hollande because of "his plans to renegotiate the treaty on tighter budget discipline for the euro zone."
And just for good measure, the United Kingdom's prime minister, David Cameron is also party to the alleged "pact", even though he didn't sign up to the treaty.
But it can't possibly be true because Berlin has denied the suggestion of the existence of an anti-Hollande pact as the German news channel n-tv reports.
A government spokeswoman told the channel that, "It's up to each individual government leader to decide whether to meet Hollande. So far in Germany, there has been no date fixed."
Aha. That's all right then.
Everyone can forget about that appearance Merkel made with the French president Nicolas Sarkozy on French television's prime time news as a sign of solidarity for the work the two had put in to saving Europe.
After all, Sarkozy wasn't officially a candidate at the time - that came a matter of days later - and Merkel seemed happy to throw her weight behind a man who is, after all, more-or-less in the same broad political family.
Nothing untoward or inappropriate there then.
And David Cameron not meeting Hollande when the Socialist party candidate was recently in London to woo the many French voters who live on the other side of the Channel and put the minds of the City at rest - well, once again that was completely understandable.
In theory at least, Cameron is on the same political wavelength as Sarkozy, so it's obvious he would support the current French president in his bid for re-election and to paraphrase, it's "just not cricket" (or goes against protocol) to meet candidates during an election period (although it's quite all right to offer support as he did to Sarkozy in an interview with the French national daily Le Figaro a couple of weeks ago).
So it's not snubbing Hollande by any means. Merkel and Cameron et al are quite at liberty to decide who they support and meet; there's absolutely no obligation to even to appear diplomatic and objective.
But wait.
Is that a murmur of disagreement and a word or two of caution from someone highly placed within Merkel's own government?
Surely not.
Yes it is.
And it comes from none other than the German foreign minister and the former leader of the Freie Demokratische Partei (the Free Democratic Party, FDP) currently Merkel's coalition partner in government, Guido Westerwelle.
In an interview with the Sunday edition of the German national daily Die Welt, Westerwelle, while not directly addressing the reports of an implied pact, had a few words of advice for his own country's politicans.
"I would advise all German parties to exercise restraint," he said.
"The party-political debate in Germany is not one that should be transferred to France and the government is not part of the French election campaign," he said.
"We've worked very well with the current French government but we also should also make it clear that we would work closely with any government French voters choose."