Hollande: I’ll tear up EU fiscal pact

French Socialist flag-bearer Francois Hollande, the opposition candidate seen as favourite to unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in May, said Monday he would renegotiate last week's EU fiscal pact.

Hollande: I'll tear up EU fiscal pact

Hollande said if elected he would seek to persuade his European partners to issue joint eurobonds to pool their sovereign debt, to allow greater European Central Bank intervention on bond markets and to agree stimulus measures.

All of these measures were explicitly opposed by European heavyweight Germany in the run-up to last week’s hard-fought deal, which serving EU leaders hope will stabilise the debt-ridden eurozone economy.

Hollande’s Socialists have accused France’s right-wing leader Sarkozy of capitulating to German pressure, while he has accused them of undermining French policy by talking down his deficit reduction plan.

Asked on RTL radio whether he felt bound by the deal Sarkozy signed last week, under which EU states will submit to tight mutually-enforced spending controls, Hollande told RTL radio: “We’ll see.”

The detail of the pact has yet to be agreed and EU leaders aim to agree the new plan by March, meaning it will largely fall to the winner of France’s two-round April and May election to enforce its end of the bargain.

“If I’m elected president I’ll renegotiate this deal to include what is missing today,” Hollande said, adding that he hoped France would not lose its top “Triple-A” debt rating between now and the poll.

“I’d see to it that we add … ECB intervention, eurobonds and a financial bail-out fund to respond to what is today the pressure of the markets, and, finally, what we need is growth,” Hollande argued.

Hollande said he would work with a new French parliament due to be elected in June to draw up a plan aiming to eliminate the budget deficit by 2017.

Sarkozy’s government has vowed to balance the books by 2013.

Sarkozy has begun to make up ground on his challenger, but all opinion poll organisations still predict a Hollande win in the second round of voting.


Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

The mayor of a town in southern France has banned smoking in cars in an attempt to limit forest fires - many of which are caused by carelessly discarded cigarette butts.

Mayor of southern French town bans smoking in cars

With France facing a hot, dry summer, some areas have already been hit by wildfires, while many others in the south of the country are on a high alert.

One of the major causes of the devastating fires is carelessly discarded cigarette butts, so the mayor of the commune of Langlade in the Gard département in south east France, has enacted a special decree banning smoking.

Smoking will be banned in a number of outdoor spaces that do not have facilities, including the town’s soccer stadium, shooting range, archery range, tennis courts – and also bans drivers from smoking in their cars. The decree is in force through the whole of the commune of Langlade.

The decree runs until July 31st and offenders risk a €15 fine – although local authorities told the Gazette de Nîmes that their main priority is raising awareness of the risk of fire from smoking, rather than handing out fines.

The Gard département has already been hit by a wildfire that destroyed several hundred acres, and firefighters have warned that the south of the country is ‘like a tinderbox’ because of the unusually early heatwave and drought that has left land parched.

READ ALSO What to do if you see a wildfire

In France smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces, but is legal in outdoor spaces such as open-air sports grounds and on the outdoor terraces of bars and cafés.

Smoking in a private vehicle is legal, as long as there are no young children in the car. Smoking while driving is not explicitly banned, but drivers can be fined if they are not in proper control of the vehicle.