At last some good news from across the Channel. Hollande’s historic victory is good for France, good for Europe and good for Britain. It must be the trigger for the EU to change tack and opt for hope and jobs, instead of the politics of cuts, unemployment and despair.
Francois Hollande has made it clear that he will propose to the other EU Leaders that they put in place a “growth pact” to add to the “fiscal pact” agreed by all of them – except Cameron of course – last December. Hollande is right and we must back his message of hope. The increase in the rate of unemployment, particularly amongst the young, is a blight which Europe ignores at its peril. The politics of austerity will only deliver more unemployment, more debts and more despair. A stagnating Europe will also hit us hard in Britain. EU countries are our biggest trading partners, roughly half our exports go there, and a eurozone recovery means that our largest export market becomes strong again and we can sell more of our goods.
A change in direction in European politics is long overdue. By voting Hollande, the voters of France have given a polite thumbs down to austerity. The Greek electoral result was a significantly ruder gesture. Taken together, they are a warning call to European politicians to think again. The Greek and French results demand a real change in the EU’s response to the continuing eurozone crises. Luckily, and not before time, the mood music is changing. Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, recently said to MEPs “we have had a fiscal compact. Right now what is in my mind is a growth compact.” The Economist last week (May 5th) opined that “Germany has pushed austerity too far and too fast.” Angela Merkel herself seemed to soften her rhetoric when she said that EU leaders need to pursue measures that require political courage and creativity to create growth. Merkel seems to think that this can be done without committing more money, but it is hard to see how that can be so.
Francois Hollande will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Not only will he carry the expectations of the French, but many of us in the EU will look to him to take a lead in putting words into action and create an ambitious European plan for growth.
With a very few exceptions Socialist and social democratic parties across Europe have up to now weathered badly the worst economic crisis the world has seen for almost a century. Hollande’s victory is a ray of hope, a ray of hope against a turbulent economic and political climate. He will need all our support and encouragement to negotiate the tough times ahead, and his success will be good for France, good for Europe and good for Britain.
Glenis Willmott MEP is the leader of Labour’s MEPs.