Dissent in Hollande's ranks fails to stop fiscal pact
FRANCE’S National Assembly has approved the EU fiscal treaty despite a small revolt from members of president François Hollande’s party.
A law ratifying the fiscal pact was passed in the lower house by 477 votes in favour to 70 against. In all, 45 among the 314 deputies who make up Mr Hollande’s left-wing parliamentary coalition either voted against the law or abstained, ignoring pleas from prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in recent days to fall into line.
Yet Mr Hollande still rallied 282 left-wing votes in favour, above the 274 required for a majority, sparing him from having to rely on votes from opposition conservatives, who voted largely in favour of ratification.
Left-wing critics argued the treaty, which sets tight limits on public deficits and debt, enshrined austerity in French law. The debate had re-opened divisions in Mr Hollande’s ruling majority, with a decision by the pro-European Green Party to oppose the deal casting doubt on the future of its two cabinet ministers and causing public recriminations in the ecologists’ ranks.
It also revived memories of the Socialist Party’s deep split over the ill-fated European Constitution in 2005, an episode that left the party leadership badly split.
In an attempt to rally left-wing opinion behind the treaty, prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned last week rejection would cause a political crisis and the collapse of the euro. Mr Hollande called yesterday’s outcome a source of “great satisfaction”.
“This sweeping majority will give France a bigger voice, that is to say it will enable us to forge ahead with the rebuilding of Europe that I have committed to since my election,” he added.
Campaigning for the presidency last spring, Mr Hollande endorsed the contents of the treaty negotiated by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, but said if elected he would refuse to sign it unless EU leaders agreed on new measures to promote growth in the euro zone.
He signed off on the text at an EU summit in June after leaders agreed to a €120 billion package of growth measures and steps towards establishing a banking union and a financial transaction tax in Europe.
France’s constitutional court ruled in August that the treaty did not require a change to the constitution, allowing Mr Hollande to avoid a referendum.
However, recent polls show a solid majority of French voters would approve the fiscal treaty if it was put to a referendum.
The draft law should be adopted before the end of the week.