Hollande: Germany alone can’t decide on euro pact

The Socialist frontrunner in France's presidential race said Thursday it would be possible to renegotiate a eurozone fiscal pact to include growth measures despite Germany's misgivings.

“The renegotiation that I want must be possible,” Francois Hollande told a prime-time French television interview 10 days before a vote run-off pitting him against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy that he is tipped to win.

“It’s not Germany that’s going to decide for all of Europe,” Hollande said, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated her position that the pact was not up for renegotiation.

“Lots of countries today are waiting for France’s decision, because we aren’t any old country in Europe, we’re a leading country in Europe and what the French people are going to do will considerably change the order.”

The fiscal pact, clinched after marathon talks by EU leaders in March, is a German-inspired accord that aims to combat the crisis via austerity which was signed by all 27 EU countries except Britain and the Czech Republic.

One of the pillars of Hollande’s campaign has been calling for the pact to be renegotiated to include measures for growth and he has vowed to veto it if he considers such moves insufficient.

Hollande’s plan received a surprise boost on Wednesday when European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi called for a “growth compact” to complement the eurozone’s fiscal compact.

But Hollande’s opponent Sarkozy dismissed this later in the same broadcast, insisting that his stricter budget cutting strategy was the only way to escape the downturn.

“I can think for myself, I don’t need to get my orders from Mr. Draghi,” he said. “To take back control of our own destiny, we have to repay our debts. We can’t live beyond our means,” he said.

France returns to the polls on May 6 for Hollande and Sarkozy’s run-off.

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Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border

Germany on Sunday, February 28th, classed France's Covid-battered Moselle region as a high risk area for virus variants, triggering tougher entry requirements at the border between the two neighbours.

Germany to tighten Covid controls at French border
Image: Peter H/ Pixabay

France’s eastern Moselle region is now listed as an area “at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants”, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced.

From Tuesday, March 2nd, cross-border travellers from Moselle will need to be able to show a recent negative coronavirus test.

Germany has already introduced tough checks at its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, ignoring calls from Brussels to keep borders within the bloc open.

At those crossings, only Germans and non-German residents are allowed to enter, as well as cross-border commuters working in certain categories of jobs.

Every vehicle is stopped and occupants must produce a negative test that is less than 48 hours old.

The checks on the German side of the Moselle crossing are expected to be less strict, a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

Instead of systematic checks, police would randomly stop vehicles on the German side and ask drivers to show “a negative test and their online entry registration”, he said.

Germany has grown increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the rapid spread of new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, especially those first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The coronavirus, including the more dangerous South African variant, is spreading faster in Moselle than elsewhere in France but French officials have pleaded with Berlin to avoid a full closure of the border.

The German classification “normally implies the extremely strict measure of a quasi-closure of borders”, France’s European Affairs minister Clement Beaune said Sunday.

“We don’t want that,” he said, adding that talks were ongoing with Berlin to find solutions for the roughly 16,000 commuters who cross from Moselle into Germany’s Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine states every day.

The German interior ministry spokesman said the two countries would discuss details of the border implications on Monday.

Asked why the French checks would not be as stringent as those along the Czech and Austrian frontiers, the spokesman said Saarland and Rhineland-Palatine had not requested border closures.

“And there is a good cooperation between the affected German and French regions,” he added.