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French candidate Hollande: ‘My adversary is finance’

Tuesday 24 January 2012 – by David Marsh

French Presidential candidate François Hollande threatens to aggravate Franco-German relations if elected after mooting a number of radical financial reforms during a recent speech, says David Marsh, co-chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum and ex-European editor for the FT.

François Hollande, the candidate for the Socialist party in France who is leading the opinion polls ahead of the presidential election on April/May, proposed on 22 January sweeping reforms of the European and French financial systems to combat speculation and restore growth.

In particular, he suggested splitting the investment and commercial banking operations of French banks, similar to the recommendations of the UK Independent Commission on Banking last year.

In the opening speech of his election campaign, Hollande – addressing 10,000 supporters at Le Bourget north of Paris – declared his ‘real adversary’ in the poll was ‘the world of finance’.

Although pledging a ‘new relationship of truth and equality’ with Germany, Hollande outlined many policies that counter the present line of the centre-right coalition government in Berlin, including common Eurobonds for euro members and new measures against speculation by the European Central Bank.

If Hollande wins the election, the stage is set for an intriguing re-run of tensions between France and Germany in May 1981 when François Mitterrand became the first Socialist president of the Fifth Republic with economic policies that put him on a collision course with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in West Germany.

The following is a translation of a key passage on the economy and Europe from Hollande’s 105 minute speech.

‛The financial crisis has destabilised governments. The markets have gained universal rights, thanks to huge public debts. Europe cannot protect its currency against speculation. Our country faces record unemployment. It is sinking down into recession and austerity. Doubt is on the march. I see it every day. It weighs down Europe. It nurtures distrust of democracy itself. It spills over into indignation at injustice, at the limits of policy, at the indecency of the rich.

Before spelling out my project, let me tell you one thing. In this battle that is joined, I will reveal who is my opponent, my true adversary. He has no name, no face; he belongs to no party; he will never declare his candidature.

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