Connect to share and comment

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande: Europe’s newest odd couple

Much in Europe is riding on how the French and German leaders get on, but with Hollande’s party facing crucial elections in June, he is unlikely to compromise just yet.

The pair said they will seek an agreement ahead of the next big summit of EU leaders in June. “It will be very important that Germany and France present their ideas together at this summit, and we have talked about the preparation,” Merkel said.

They will see each other before that, meeting at an informal dinner of EU leaders on May 23, as well as at the forthcoming NATO and G8 summits.

However, Hollande is unlikely to show much willingness for compromise with Berlin just yet. After all his party is facing legislative elections in mid June and he will want to make sure he is not seen to be backsliding on campaign pledges.

Hollande wants his five-year term to start with his Socialist Party securing control of the National Assembly so that he can push through his agenda. Otherwise he faces a frustrating period of “cohabitation” with a prime minister from the opposing camp, such as occurred when conservative Jacques Chirac’s presidency coincided with the premiership of Socialist Lionel Jospin from 1997 to 2002.

As such Merkel cannot expect Hollande to veer from his insistence on growth measures. And for all his unassuming manner, he could well prove to be a more difficult partner than Sarkozy in the long run.

Nevertheless Merkel is also likely to stand firm on many issues. Asked on Tuesday night if she feared Hollande’s campaign promises she replied coolly: “I am seldom afraid, as fear is not a good counselor in politics.”