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French Socialist candidate Hamon talks austerity in meeting with Merkel

French presidential candidate Benoit Hamon has met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. On the same day, Merkel's rival, SPD candidate Martin Schulz, endorsed Hamon.

Hamon met with Merkel in the German capital on Tuesday in what he described as an amiable meeting that was not without its disagreements.

The Socialist contender for the French presidency said he reiterated his support to the chancellor for a stronger European defense and upholding a peace deal in Ukraine negotiated by France and Germany. However, he said he also took the opportunity to criticize the chancellor's approach to the eurozone crisis.

"I repeated to her my disagreement with austerity policies, the consequences that they have had on people, the fact that they have produced today social desperation that produces votes for the far right," Hamon told reporters.

Saarland Landtagswahlen Martin Schulz (picture alliance/dpa/M.Tantussi)

Martin Schulz, chancellor candidate of the SPD

Hamon wins Schulz's backing

Hamon also said he had discussed with Merkel a proposal to replace the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers with a group of deputies from national parliaments and the European Parliament. The deputies would craft policy to streamline fiscal and social policies in the 19 countries using the euro.

Merkel did not comment on her meeting with Hamon, a left-wing former education minister who has been trailing in the polls behind centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. The meeting comes on the heels of similar meetings between Merkel and candidates Macron and Francois Fillon. The chanceller has refused to meet with Le Pen.

Hamon also met with Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic Party (SPD)'s candidate for chancellor, who said he had "long wished Benoit Hamon success in the presidential race in France" and that he had the support of socialist parties across Europe.

Frankreich Penelope Fillon (Getty Images/AFP/T. Samson)

Penelope Fillon wife of 'Republicains' candidate Francois Fillon

'Penelopegate' drags on

Also on Tuesday, Penelope Fillon, wife of conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, faced preliminary charges for her alleged role in a scandal that has come to be known as "Penelopegate."

She is accused of accepting well-paid parliamentary jobs that she did not actually do. Her husband has already been charged over the same case, and has seen his ratings in the polls plummet due to the scandal.

Penelope Fillon is expected to face judges in Paris who will decide whether or not to issue preliminary charges against her. She and her husband have denied any wrongdoing.

blc/jm  (AP, AFP)

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