Hollande 'will work' with Merkel


Newly elected French president Francois Hollande said this evening he will work with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European countries for the good of the bloc.

He said all possible measures that would support growth should be considered. He was speaking in Berlin where he is meeting with Ms Merkel.

Mr Hollande, who wants to temper Berlin-led austerity policies with pro-growth measures, told a news conference with Ms Merkel that he and his German counterpart both wanted Greece to remain in the euro currency zone and hoped voters there would show they did too in a June 17 election.

"I hope that we can say to the Greeks that Europe is ready to add measures to help growth and support economic activity so that there is a return to growth in Greece," he said.

"On growth, the method that we agreed is putting all ideas and all proposals on the table and seeing what legal means exist to put them into effect."

Ms Merkel said Germany and France understand their joint responsibility for Europe and must offer joint ideas at an EU summit next month.

"It will be very important that Germany and France present their ideas together at this summit and work closely together to prepare it," she told the joint news conference.

She said she was confident she and Mr Hollande could find common ground on policy to spurt economic growth in the single currency area even they differ on some issues.

"There are common positions and also some differences," she said.

She added that there some public misconceptions over her policy toward boosting economic growth. The plan to address the issue in June was never under question, she said.

"The question is what one means by growth. Growth has to impact the lives of ordinary people.And that's why I'm happy that we agreed that we will discuss ideas how this can be implemented with ordinary people in mind - and I'm not concerned that there will be differences here as well as agreements - and in a word, I'm looking forward to our further co-operation."

Ms Merkel also said the two leaders wanted Greece to remain in the euro zone and said they were ready to help the crisis-stricken country to return to economic growth.

In a jittery start to his first foreign trip as president, the airplane bringing Mr Hollande to Berlin this afternoon was forced to turn back to Paris after being hit by lightning.

Mr Hollande was unharmed and took off again in another plane, a presidential source said.

Earlier today he said he would urge his country's European partners to back a pact that coupled the goals of deficit reduction and economic stimulus.

"I will propose to my European partners a pact that ties the necessary reduction of deficit to the indispensable stimulation of the economy," Mr Hollande said, who won a May 6th election and replaced Nicolas Sarkozy.

Before leaving for Berlin, Mr Hollande appointed Jean-Marc Ayrault as his prime minister. Mr Ayrault is the socialist leader in the lower house of parliament and is a fluent German speaker with good contacts in Berlin.

The unveiling of the full cabinet is not expected until tomorrow, but there is widespread speculation that the finance ministry will go to Michel Sapin, a former holder of the office.

The cabinet is expected to include a mixture of trusted old hands and a solid core of members from the party’s centrist wing.

Mr Sapin, who served as finance minister under the last socialist president, François Mitterrand, is one of Mr Hollande’s oldest friends and architect of his election manifesto.

Another Socialist veteran, Laurent Fabius, is widely seen as the leading candidate for the foreign ministry. The appointment would revive a career that included a number of senior cabinet posts, including that of prime minister under Mr Mitterrand when Mr Fabius was just 37.

Mr Valls, representing the party’s right wing, could be in line for the interior minister’s post, having seen his standing enhanced by running Mr Hollande’s communications operation during the campaign. The cabinet will include as many women as men.

One of the incoming government’s priorities will be securing the Socialist Party a majority in June’s parliamentary elections so as to avoid Mr Hollande having to “cohabit”. Opinion polls give left-wing parties about 45 per cent for the National Assembly vote, and put the centre-right on 32 per cent. The far-right National Front is on about 12 per cent.

Additional reporting: Reuters