Chancellorship candidate Steinbrück backs Hollande on growth | News | DW | 05.04.2013
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Chancellorship candidate Steinbrück backs Hollande on growth

Would-be chancellor Peer Steinbrück has met with French President Francois Hollande. Steinbrück voiced support for his center-left colleague's skepticism about over-arching austerity.

President Hollande greeted Steinbrück, the chancellorship candidate for his Social Democrats (SPD), at the Elysee Palace in Paris Friday.

Steinbrück, who is set to face off with Chancellor Angela Merkel in September elections, is currently at a 32 percent approval rating in Germany, according to the most recent ARD report.

After the meeting, the SPD echoed previous comments by Hollande that Europe should place a greater focus on growth. While some austerity was needed, he said, too much belt-tightening could be damaging.

"The concentration of [fiscal] consolidation has led many countries into a vicious circle," said Steinbrück. "Neither of us is against the imperative for consolidation but the issue is of how much."

'Holding things back'

Referring to the situation is Germany, Steinbrück used a railway analogy to suggest that the government itself was hampering growth. "In many cases it is the government that is sitting in the brake house," he said.

Steinbrück also made an appeal on behalf of Hollande for understanding, claiming that he faced considerable challenges to make up for the policies of conservative predecessors.

The pair were understood to have discussed European issues during their talks, as well as the forthcoming elections in Germany.

Hollande is struggling with a 27 percent approval rating after his ex-Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac admitted to dodging French taxes with a Swiss bank account.

First of many trips

The political talks are Steinbrück's first in Paris since his candidacy was announced in December. The visit is only one of many planned foreign visits in the run up to the elections.

Earlier in the day, Steinbrück also met with socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The 66-year-old is one of the SPD's more pro-business representatives, and even supported former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's controversial reforms in 2003, which made big cuts to the German social system.

France is currently suffering from zero growth, steadily rising unemployment and an excessive deficit.

During the French election campaign last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had openly supported the conservative incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, and later refused to meet with the victorious socialist Hollande. In a recent television interview, Hollande assured that he did not intend to interfere in the election campaign in Germany. "I will not do to others what was done to me," said Hollande.

hc,rc / (AFP, AP, dpa, reuters)