French coalition rift widens over EU budget pact

French coalition rift widens over EU budget pact
# 24 September 2012 18:19 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. President Francois Hollande’s government demanded on Monday its Green allies fall into line over European Union policy after the ecologist party said it would oppose a European Union budget discipline pact in a vote next month, APA reports quoting Reuters.

While the pact is set to pass with votes from Hollande’s Socialists and from the right, the Greens’ move is the most open defiance of Hollande’s authority yet from within his four-month coalition and comes as his popularity ratings are plummeting.
While no admirer of an EU austerity accord created during the rule of his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, the Socialist Hollande backs the plan to return to balanced budgets as a necessary step to easing the euro sovereign debt crisis.

"I am calling on all members of the EE-LV (Europe Ecology- The Greens) to show some coherence and, frankly, solidarity," said government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

The Greens’ national council at the weekend rejected the pact agreed by EU leaders last March as the wrong response to Europe’s rising debt burden and called for talks on an undefined "new European agenda" to tackle the crisis.

Although some Green deputies have threatened for weeks to at least abstain in the vote, the decision stunned even some within the party. Veteran ecologist Daniel Cohn-Bendit called the move "dramatically pathetic" and suspended his party membership.

Ties between Socialists and Greens have been strained by a statement by Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, a Socialist, suggesting nuclear power was an energy of the future - comments the ecologists feared put in doubt the government’s commitment to reducing France’s longstanding reliance on the energy source.

Opposition conservatives leapt on the Greens’ move on the EU pact as proof of a split within the coalition, and called on their two government representatives, Housing Minister Cecile Duflot and Development Minister Pascal Canfin, to step down.

The two ministers were not immediately available for comment but the Greens’ parliamentary group leader Francois de Rugy rejected calls for them to resign and said the Greens were within their rights to reject a pact which they never supported.

"The European pact was not part of the coalition agreement we made with our Socialist allies. This pact is a legacy of the Sarkozy era, it’s even dubbed the ’Merkozy pact’," he told Canal Plus television, using the play on words supposed to show Sarkozy’s close ties with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.