As a candidate, Hollande denounced the treaty as an instrument of hardship for the working class and vowed to renegotiate it if elected. But once in office, he signed it as it stood, accepting the requirement that deficits be reduced to 3 percent of gross domestic product by this year and zero within two more years.
Unable to reach the 3 percent goal without even more painful cuts and taxes, however, he petitioned the European Commission in Brussels and early this month obtained a two-year extension. Although he finagled the extra breathing room, Hollande was careful to emphasize that France was still bound by the E.U. deficit reduction obligation.
The maneuver has pleased neither the right nor the left. But Hollande’s middle-line policy, often referred to as Scandinavian-style social democracy, drew praise from at least one supporter: the popular musician AndréManoukian. “Today, this seems to be the reasonable path, even if it is not very sexy or even very spectacular,” he said in an Internet comment.
Le Monde, the paramount French newspaper, also endorsed Hollande’s determination to avoid austerity while prudently paring back the deficit with added taxes and limited budget cuts. In a front-page editorial, Le Monde described Hollande’s neither-nor policy as unprecedented for a Socialist president.
Although he had never held high office, Hollande has his own experience to guide him. He was a young economic adviser to François Mitterrand, the Socialist who became president in 1981 and set about nationalizing major industries in alliance with the Communist Party. The result was disaster; two years later, Mitterrand made a U-turn, starting a wave of privatization that turned Socialist doctrine on its head.
But Nathalie Durand-Prinborgne, a Workers’ Force union delegate at the sprawling seaside shipyards here, said nationalization is still the only way to guarantee the future, because the government is necessary to arrange financing for such large investments as a ship. Without the government and its investment tax credits, she said, the St. Nazaire shipyards would never have snagged the Royal Caribbean contract, which provides three more years of work.
“For me,” she said, “nationalization is the only way to keep this site alive.”