On Sunday May 6, 2012, François Hollande was elected as France’s new President for a five-year term. Hollande succeeds Nicolas Sarkozy, who failed to be re-elected. As in many other European countries, the Eurozone crisis has been the center guest of the political debate during the presidential campaign. In particular, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) which is due to enter into force in 2013, and contains support measures which are conditional on rigorous fiscal consolidation and reform programs throughout Europe, was a topic of fierce opposition between both candidates.
While both men are undoubtedly strong supporters of the European construction, François Hollande questioned the ESM’s ability to alone foster growth and create jobs in Europe. In a press conference held in Barcelona on May 3, 2012, Mario Draghi, the current head of the European Central Bank, also seemed to call for other actions, stating that “at the same time, together with fiscal consolidation, growth and growth potential in the euro area need to be enhanced by decisive structural reforms.” Far from providing unrestricted support to Mr. Hollande’s stance on the issue, Mr. Draghi went on by explaining that there was no contradiction between a growth compact and a fiscal compact and that growth was sustainable in the long run only if it was grounded on fiscal stability. What may have appeared as a contradiction among the candidates to the presidential election in France, seems in fact the roadmap to the political agenda that most countries within the European Union will adopt: fiscal discipline only paves the way for other structural reforms or measures which will hopefully ensure the comeback of sustainable growth within the Eurozone.
When times are difficult, when countries are tempted with protectionism and the erection of new boundaries, the European ideal appears to be more demanding than ever for politicians of all sides. François Hollande will only have little time to convince Angela Merkel that his views on the topic are compatible with Germany's objectives.