ANN CAHILL: French cast new doubt on fiscal treaty

The future of the fiscal treaty was uncertain last night as the French congress will not pass it, and the man tipped to become the next president of France has vowed to renegotiate it.

This casts doubt on the issue of if and when there will be a referendum in Ireland on the hotly-disputed treaty.

Françoise Hollande, favourite to take over the French presidency from Nicolas Sarkozy, will tell Socialists in Paris today that the fiscal pact in its current form is dead.

It needs a two-thirds majority in the joint senate and parliament to pass, but Mr Sarkozy no longer has sufficient support to win such a vote. If the French were to vote against, the treaty would be unlikely to go ahead without the support of the eurozone’s second-biggest member.

And Mr Hollande’s message to Ireland on the timing of the referendum will be: “Wait until you hear what we have to say after the election,” according to his director of elections Pierre Moscovici.

Up until now it was thought that the Socialist candidate would only seek to add some protocols to the treaty, dealing with the need for growth. However, in a speech today he will say that he intends to totally open up the document, changing articles and seeking to reorientate it away from its 100% focus on austerity.

“We will not ratify this treaty in this country if there are not these changes,” said Mr Moscovici, a veteran of European politics, instrumental in having the Stability Pact changed in 1996 to include growth.

Mr Hollande would lose no time in renegotiating the treaty if elected on May 6. “His first trip will be to Berlin within days,” he said.

He would not seek to get rid of the tough new rules governing debt and deficits — as with or without the treaty, these have already been signed into EU law.

“The problem is not austerity, but a lack of growth,” said Mr Moscovici, adding that they would not pick a row with Germany, but intend to work with their neighbour.

Mr Hollande would not wait until after the French general election in June to negotiate the changes, he said. The Socialists are expected to dominate parliament as voters reject the centre-right.

“We do not want to lose time; we do not want to stop Europe. We want to go fast with this,” said Mr Moscovici, who campaigned in Ireland for a yes vote to the Lisbon Treaty. France can expect support from Mario Monti of Italy and Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, who have stood up to Berlin on austerity demands.

ICTU chief economist Paul Sweeney will tell the Socialist seminar that while Ireland does not like the fiscal pact, “we have no option but to support it”.


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