Days before the French elections, DW spoke to a close aide of challenger Francois Hollande to ask how the socialists would approach Franco-German relations if he succeeds in his bid to become the next president.
Jean-Marc Ayrault is the current head of the socialist grouping in the French lower house of parliament, a role he has held for 15 years. He is known to be close to socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande. As a former German teacher, he is now spearheading negotiations between the Hollande camp and the Germans. DW spoke to him a few days before the first round of voting.
DW: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given her public backing to incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy - how is Francois Hollande trying to forge a relationship with the German government?
Jean-Marc Ayrault: He has already said that if he becomes president, he will meet with the German chancellor in Berlin immediately after the elections. He wants to discuss with her the important questions that stand before us.
Last week, you told the German news magazine, Der Spiegel, "there are no official links [between the Hollande camp and the German government], there are only messages that are being exchanged between advisors." What did you mean by that?
That's true. After Francois Hollande took part in the Social Democratic (SPD) party conference in Berlin last December, he said he was ready to meet the German Chancellor before the elections - that was not possible, but it's no problem. In fact, the most important time is after the elections. We need stability between our two countries. And what is clear to me, because I know Francois Hollande very well, is that he stands for stability and accountability - as shown by his whole political career. And I believe, that Mrs. Merkel has been lacking such qualities in Mr. Sarkozy. We can start something new between our two countries and our governments.
But won't Francois Hollande's financial policy clash with the current German-European fiscal policy? Hollande has already indicated he will try to renegotiate the fiscal pact.
First, we must clear up a misunderstanding that still exists to some extent in Germany: Francois Hollande is a responsible politician, who takes all sides into account in his economic considerations. He does not lose sight of the reality of the current economic situation, which can by the way be linked back to the economic policy of Mr. Sarkozy. On the contrary, [Francois Hollande] has said from the very beginning, even in Berlin in December, in his speech at the SPD party conference, that one of his most important priorities is clearing up France's budget deficit and balancing the budget by 2017. That doesn't mean that we will carry on the same policies as the current president. We will have other priorities, like investing more in education, in tackling youth unemployment and in a fair taxation policy. The first question for us is how can we improve the financial situation by placing more emphasis on growth and employment. That is our priority both on the national and European level.
You told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that you were not seeking to block the fiscal pact. Is that true?
That's true, but we do want to negotiate. Balancing the budget is our priority in France, but it can't be the only valid economic policy in Europe, otherwise the frustration with Europe would grow. That's why we want to negotiate a new version of the current fiscal pact by adding to it, by including a new strategy for growth. That's not only a question for the French, but it's also an issue in Germany, in Italy, in Spain: the crisis in Europe is not over. We have to solve this problem of growth and that's what we want to discuss with Germany.
What role are you playing in these negotiations?
I have good relations with my friends in the SPD and also with some in the inner circle of those currently in charge in Berlin. So I have long had good relations with German politicians and it's important that we get to know each other, if we want to work better together in future.
What role will you play in any future Socialist government?
I can't say, because I just don't know. Francois Hollande hasn't decided that yet. The first step is the presidential elections. We haven't won yet.
I've heard you may be France's next prime minister.
We don't know that. We haven't won yet. We have two rounds of voting before us and we want to win that both in the first round and above all in the second round. And after the president is elected we will face a vote in the National Assembly and there we need a majority.
Interviewer: Joanna Impey
Editor: Neil King