By Elizabeth Pineau
PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - France’s Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande gained support on Thursday from left-wing parties in Germany and Spain for his call to modify a freshly signed fiscal pact with pro-growth amendments.
Hollande, favourite to beat Sarkozy in a May 6 election run-off, has long advocated the need for adding clauses on economic growth and job creation to the pact on fiscal discipline, signed this month by the leaders of 25 member states.
As several countries in the bloc urge some tempering of German-influenced budget cuts with a more pro-growth and employment strategy, Hollande repeated his intention to renegotiate the treaty if elected.
“The fact that some have started to think about possibilities, renegotiations and annexes proves there is a growing awareness that this treaty is flawed,” Hollande told journalists in Paris. “As far as I am concerned, I am for renegotiating the treaty from the start (of his term in power).”
Leaders of Spain’s opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) and Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) said they backed Hollande, whom a CSA pollster on Wednesday showed neck-and-neck with Sarkozy in the first round of a two-round election.
“It’s necessary to conduct a negotiation to complete the treaty so that there is growth in addition to austerity,” PSOE secretary general Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told journalists in Paris, a day before he was scheduled to attend a left-wing summit on Europe.
SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel defended Hollande against accusations, made by France’s ruling conservatives, that his plan to renegotiate the treaty was naive.
“It is absolutely not naive because Francois Hollande is not saying that he is fundamentally opposed to the fiscal pact. He is saying, and he is absolutely right, that the pact comes only half the way that Europe must go,” he told Le Monde daily in an interview due to be published on Friday.
Spain’s PSOE was dealt a bruising defeat in a general election last November, handing their conservative opponents an absolute majority in parliament that would allow them to ratify the budgetary treaty.
Germany’s SPD, which does not form part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, has said it would back new euro zone budget discipline rules on the condition that the government agrees extra measures like a financial transaction tax.
Threatening the treaty’s ratification, Ireland decided last month to hold a referendum on the treaty while Labour MPs in the Netherlands have hinted they could block it unless they were given more time to lower their deficit. [ID: nL5E8EDAA8]
“The fact that the Spanish government has taken exception to deficit reduction goals, that our Belgian friends can bring up different solutions, that the Dutch — conservatives, no less — note the absence of growth... all of this shows that the budgetary treaty as negotiated is not the formula that will put Europe on the right track,” Hollande said.