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Greece, growth preoccupy Merkel, Hollande

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 02:19

May 16 - Despite their substantial differences, new French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed to get off to a good start at their first meeting. Greece remains top of their agenda as worries increase about contagion hitting Italy and Spain. Joanna Partridge reports.

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No kiss - but a handshake - when France's new leader met his German counterpart for the first time. Francois Hollande travelled straight to Berlin after his inauguration to start grappling with the euro zone's mounting problems. SOUNDBITE: FRENCH PRESIDENT, FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, SAYING (French): "We want to work together for the good of Europe but we also want to mobilise all of the other European countries. I also wanted to come to talk to the chancellor about our work for the coming weeks and months." After their meeting, Hollande got back to the business of putting his cabinet together - and Jean-Marc Ayrault officially took over as Prime Minister. Commentators seemed to think the first meeting of the Franco-German partnership got off to a good start. Christopher Bickerton from Paris' Sciences Po university says the leaders know they need each other. SOUNDBITE: CHRISTOPHER BICKERTON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT SCIENCES PO, SAYING (English): "Some of them were reasonably uncontroversial measures such as using Europe's structural funds to fund growth-based projects and then he mentioned eurobonds at the very end of his list, in a rather clipped, abbreviated way. My feeling is that he's going to accept that there's a need for compromise, there will be some things on that list that will be left out and it may well be the ones that Angela Merkel is most against." Greece is currently at the top of the euro zone's list of worries. After an inconclusive election earlier this month a new vote will now take place in mid-June which could hand victory to leftists who oppose the country's EU/IMF bailout. There are also concerns Athens' troubles could spread to Spain and Italy. That's despite the IMF saying Rome is making good progress in shoring up its finances. SOUNDBITE: REZA MOGHADAM, DIRECTOR OF IMF EUROPE DEPARTMENT, SAYING (English): "The stablisation policies that have been put in place are also essential to create the conditions for a revival of growth. But of course the job is not yet done, there is good progress but more needs to be done to revive growth." Patience over Greece is wearing thin among EU policymakers. Merkel and Hollande may not be best friends yet but they do need to show a united front as fears increase about the euro zone dividing. Joanna Partridge, Reuters

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Greece, growth preoccupy Merkel, Hollande

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 02:19