French election will not hit poll: Gilmore

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the election of François Hollande as French president would make no difference to the referendum on the fiscal treaty and the vote will go ahead as planned.

Mr Hollande, who beat Nicolas Sarkozy at the polls, has vowed to renegotiate the treaty that is deeply unpopular in France unless he gets a pact for growth as well.

But Mr Gilmore, who flew to Paris for the election victory of his fellow Socialist, was adamant that the Government and the rest of the EU supports his demand for growth measures.

“He is not proposing to reopen the treaty — he is talking about adding a growth agenda and that is something that is very much in our space,” said Mr Gilmore.

Without sustained action on employment, Mr Hollande will not muster the 60% majority he needs in the French parliament to pass the treaty — rendering it useless without the support of the euro’s second largest member. This would mean that Ireland held a deeply divisive referendum for nothing, although it would not change the austerity measures demanded by the bailout programme.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny congratulated Mr Hollande and said he looked forward to engaging with him in the coming days.

“These are challenging times for Europe but I believe that these challenges can be met and overcome with determination and a unity of focus on behalf of all member states,” he said.

The Socialist Party/United Left Alliance was quick to claim Mr Hollande’s election as a win for the no campaign. “His victory puts the Irish people in a unique position,” said Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy. “This treaty is now on extremely shaky foundations. With a no vote on May 31, people in Ireland can add to the momentum and potentially help to sink this treaty.”

Mr Hollande, who defeated Mr Sarkozy by 51.9% to 48.1% to become France’s first Socialist president in 17 years, is expected to contact German chancellor Angela Merkel in the next few days to discuss the treaty with a view to finalising a growth agenda at the June 29 EU leaders’ summit.

But there could be an emergency meeting before that following news from Athens that up to 60% of those elected in the Greek general election were anti-austerity parties, with some wanting to leave the eurozone altogether.

The two main parties, centrist New Democracy and Socialist Pasok, who reluctantly signed up to the bailout deal, were forecast to win little more than 31% of the votes between them, with Pasok beaten into third place by the extreme left Syriza who say they will not go along with the bailout programme.

It would mean an immediate cut off of the funds for the country that is almost completely dependent on EU/IMF money to pay creditors and for the day-to-day running of the country, and another crisis for the eurozone.


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