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Main focus of Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hollande against EU budget cuts

François Hollande delivered his first speech before the European Parliament. (© dapd)

French President François Hollande warned against cuts to the EU budget in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday and called for an active exchange rate policy for the Eurozone. Hollande has set France on a collision course with Britain and Germany ahead of the EU summit on Thursday, commentators write.

Blog Gavin Hewitt's Europe - United Kingdom

President headed for confrontation

Hollande made it clear in his speech that the main line of conflict in the upcoming budget negotiations will be between France and the UK, Europe editor Gavin Hewitt comments in his blog on the BBC website: "French President Francois Hollande is preparing for a tough negotiation this week over the EU budget. Speaking at the European Parliament, he said 'the negotiations are very difficult' and there is not, in his view, a deal in place. If there is a fight, the French finger of accusation seems to be already pointing at Britain. Several countries agree with the UK in seeking a freeze in EU spending allowing for inflation but Prime Minister David Cameron is seen as taking the hardest line over future spending. There are persistent rumours that further budget savings will be proposed by cutting back on infrastructure and energy projects. President Hollande indicated he would oppose such cuts." (05/02/2013)

Deutschlandfunk - Germany

Hollande puts a spoke in Europe's wheel

France's President François Hollande has warned against cuts in the EU budget and called on Europe's leaders to steer the euro's exchange rate. In so doing he breaks with Germany's strategy of not seeking to influence currency rates, the website of the German public radio station Deutschlandfunk notes, calling the speech backward-looking: "Hollande's formula of 'greater solidarity and integration' may be suited to overcome the euro-policy trench in his own country. But it won't advance the future construction of Europe. Because headwind will come from Germany, if nowhere else. Berlin will not accept even more southern flair in monetary policy. Hopefully not, that is! As it is, many of the original rules behind the monetary union have already been watered down to the point where they are unrecognisable. ... In her November address to the European Parliament, Angela Merkel spoke of a common fiscal, economic and financial market policy. François Hollande could not have made it more clear just how far Europe is from that goal." (05/02/2013)

Ouest France - France

Action on integration, not just words

Hollande's clear commitment to Europe is important but won't be enough, the regional paper Ouest France comments: "He spoke of integration and solidarity, and about strengthening Europe in all important areas - from the currency to culture to defence. He called for a broad debate in Europe on how to deepen this relationship with the next European elections in 2014. In short, the parliamentarians heard the speech of a convinced European. Nevertheless it's not enough just to reaffirm France's European ambitions. If the French president wants to avoid being accused of just saying what the MEPs wanted to hear, he will have to defend this vision in the European Council. And there ambitions are judged on the basis of concrete measures." (06/02/2013)

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