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May 15, 2012

German economy powers on, French growth evaporates

BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) – Germany’s economy confounded expectations by posting robust growth in the first quarter of the year while France could summon up none at all, data showed on Tuesday.

Gross domestic product in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, rose by 0.5 percent on the quarter, bouncing back from a 0.2 percent slide in the last three months of 2011. France’s economy stagnated, although it grew slightly at the end of last year.

May 14, 2012

“Head chopper” tipped for French finance minister

PARIS (Reuters) – Michel Sapin, favorite to be named French finance minister this week, is a disciple of European integration who revels in his nickname the “head chopper” earned two decades ago when he cut down to size speculators attacking the franc.

With the euro zone crisis flaring and investors scrutinizing France’s deficit, Sapin is an outspoken advocate of restoring the health of the country’s finances by raising taxes on the rich while gradually reining in government spending.

May 14, 2012

Germanophile tipped as French prime minister

PARIS (Reuters) – German-speaker Jean-Marc Ayrault, tipped to be named France’s prime minister on Tuesday, is a veteran parliament leader whose familiarity with Germany and deal-making skills may prove invaluable as his Socialist government seeks to challenge Berlin’s focus on austerity.

The stately, silver-haired Ayrault – a former German teacher and long-time ally of president-elect Francois Hollande – has made pragmatism his hallmark in holding together the Socialists’ fractious parliamentary group as its floor leader since 1997.

May 9, 2012

Hollande meets Van Rompuy to discuss euro, growth

PARIS (Reuters) – French president-elect Francois Hollande began his drive to persuade European partners to shift their economic policy priority from austerity to growth when he met on Wednesday with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

Hollande takes his call to add growth elements to Europe’s fiscal compact to Berlin next week.

May 8, 2012

France’s Hollande may roll back spending promises

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Socialist president-elect Francois Hollande may use a summer audit of state finances to water down his generous campaign promises rather than risk a backlash from financial markets against stubbornly high deficits and rising debt.

Advisers say he could even freeze some spending if the review turns up any nasty surprises, soothing investors who are worried he has become the figurehead for a fight against German-imposed austerity in the euro zone.

May 6, 2012

Sarkozy indicates stepping back from politics

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Nicolas Sarkozy indicated on Sunday he would step down from political leadership after accepting responsibility for his defeat by Socialist Francois Hollande.

During his campaign, he had promised to quit politics if he became only the second French president to lose a bid for re-election. Conceding defeat on Sunday, he said: “I am not a man to shirk responsibilities. When there is a defeat, it is the Number 1 who accepts the consequences.

May 6, 2012

Socialists celebrate as French vote nears close

PARIS (Reuters) – France looked set to crown Francois Hollande as its first Socialist president in nearly two decades in an election on Sunday, marking a shift to the left at the heart of Europe and heralding a fight back against German-led austerity.

Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, swamped by anger at a surge in unemployment during his five-year term, faced being the 11th euro zone leader to be swept from power by the economic crisis after final opinion polls placed Hollande between four and eight points ahead.

May 5, 2012

Hollande favourite as French prepare for Sunday vote

PARIS (Reuters) – Overseas voters cast early ballots on the eve of an election expected to make Francois Hollande France’s first Socialist leader in two decades, despite polls showing President Nicolas Sarkozy clawing back some ground.

Sunday’s election, which coincides with parliamentary polls in Greece, may prove decisive for Europe as Hollande has pledged to temper a German-led austerity drive and reorient the recession-stricken euro zone towards growth.

May 5, 2012

France readies for poll, Sarkozy closes on Hollande

PARIS (Reuters) – Campaigning ended on Saturday in France for a decisive second-round presidential vote expected to crown Francois Hollande the country’s first Socialist leader in two decades despite polls showing President Nicolas Sarkozy clawing back some ground.

Sunday’s election, which coincides with parliamentary polls in Greece, may prove decisive for the direction of Europe as Hollande has promised he will try to temper a German-led austerity drive across Europe and reorientate the recession-struck euro zone towards growth.

May 4, 2012

France’s Sarkozy in vote appeal as margin narrows

PARIS (Reuters) – Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy made an impassioned final appeal to voters on Friday, saying that a Socialist victory could send France spiraling the way of Greece, as polls showed him narrowing his challenger’s lead two days before the vote.

Final opinion polls put Francois Hollande’s advantage at as little as four points. But Sarkozy faced an uphill battle after Hollande turned in a polished performance in their only television debate on Wednesday, and far-right and centrist leaders declined to back the unpopular president.