Welcomes, invites, pressing tasks for new-boy Hollande | News | DW | 07.05.2012
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Welcomes, invites, pressing tasks for new-boy Hollande

Francois Hollande has barely been president-elect for one day, but has a "to-do" list spanning months. World leaders have welcomed their new French colleague, sent out a string of RSVPs, and reminded him of work ahead.

Francois Hollande will not officially become France's second Socialist president until May 15, but his first weeks in office are already taking shape.

One of the very first tasks, according to Hollande's campaign manager Pierre Moscovici, will be a visit to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and others.

"There will be a Berlin visit very swiftly after the inauguration of the new president, almost immediately after May 15," Moscovici said on Monday, adding that it was Merkel who was the first to call Hollande and congratulate him.

When asked about this conversation, amid concerns over policy differences between the leaders of the eurozone's two main economies, Merkel said: "We said we will work well and intensively together."

The chancellor also said that she did not think the EU's almost-universal fiscal pact - Britain and the Czech Republic did not sign up - was "up for renegotiation," an idea her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble took a step further in an interview with German state broadcaster ARD.

"I think we will be able to convince the new French president, the new French government about that matter," Schäuble predicted.

The fiscal pact is an agreement whereby European member states agree to keep their annual budget deficits between the long-standing EU target of 3 percent of GDP, or face penalties.

RSVP, monsieur president

Across the Atlantic, US President Barack Obama invited Hollande to visit the White House ahead of the Group of Eight summit at Camp David, Maryland, later this month. That summit immediately precedes another appointment in the US, a NATO summit in Chicago - where the new French president is expected to say that he will withdraw France's roughly 3,300 troops from Afghanistan one year earlier than initially planned.

Before his trip to the States, Hollande is set to appear at a Tuesday ceremony in Paris marking the end of World War II at the tomb of the unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe. Nicolas Sarkozy asked Hollande to appear in tandem with him at the ceremony.

The president-elect deferred one possible task on his opening day, saying that he was not yet ready to announce his choice for prime minister.

"You will have the name of the prime minister on May 15," Hollande said, referring to the date of his official inauguration. "During the upcoming days I am primarily interested in international briefs because there are a lot of them."

Ratings agencies hold fire

Hollande's campaign promises where economic policy was concerned, advocating greater focus on promoting economic growth and not a reliance on slashing state budgets, were expected to upset markets and financial institutions. Yet after a difficult start to Monday's trade, Germany's DAX, the CAC 40 in Paris, the Madrid General Index, and the AEX in Amsterdam all reported gains, London's FTSE 100 being a notable exception.

Ratings agencies Fitch and Standard and Poor's both issued Monday statements saying that Hollande's election would have no immediate bearing on France's AA+ credit rating, which was downgraded from the top-notch AAA level in January.

One leader who appeared to indirectly voice concern about a possible change in the wind in France was International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

"The most important element is to lay out a credible medium-term plan to lower debt," Lagarde said in a speech delivered in Zurich. "Without such a plan, countries will be forced to make an even bigger adjustment soon."

The IMF boss added that countries should "keep a steady hand on the wheel" by sticking to the austerity measures already announced. Lagarde was French finance minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, until she replaced prominent French Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF last year.

msh/ccp (AFP, AP, dapd, dpa, Reuters)