Hollande-Cameron don't agree on much – except need to save the eurozone

French President Hollande and UK Prime Minister Cameron meet in US today ahead of G8 summit. They are likely to find common ground on eurozone crisis despite differences over austerity.

Laurent Cipriani/AP, Nigel Roddis/Reuters
French President Francois Hollande (l.) and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron meet in US today ahead of G8 summit.

When French President François Hollande and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain meet for the first time today in the United States ahead of the G8 and NATO summits, they likely will do what the French and Britons have done for decades: Disagree on virtually everything – except the need to keep working together.

Mr. Hollande, a socialist, and Mr. Cameron, a conservative, have shared little common ground on issues such as NATO’s military intervention in Afghanistan and measures to fix Europe’s current economic crisis. Hollande repeatedly said during his presidential campaign that the European Union needs growth-oriented measures rather than the austerity-centered approach favored by Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Yet Hollande and Cameron do share one central goal: preventing an economic collapse of Greece that would result in it leaving the eurozone, an event whose dramatic consequences could include the end of the euro, Europe’s common currency.

Fabio Liberti, a Paris-based expert on defense and European issues, says he thinks the meeting between Cameron and Hollande should go well despite their disagreements, because the French president has made his positions known and has no interest in being combative.

“He is starting his presidency with already quite a few tensions so I don’t think he wants to add more to it, if you will,” says Mr. Liberti, a research director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations. “Today the French-British relationship isn’t the most urgent issue, so I don’t see him being aggressive with David Cameron.”

Cameron also has softened his tone this week amid the deepening Greek crisis, offering some praise for Hollande's initiatives and aligning himself a bit more with pro-growth camps.

"Even with the election of a Socialist president in France, he's actually said 'how am I going to stimulate the economy, I'm not going to do it through extra public spending, because actually we've got to cut back on that,'" Cameron told ITV1's television's Daybreak show. The prime minister also noted that Hollande's target for balancing the budget by 2017 outpaced that of the UK.

Is France really likely to pull out of Afghanistan early?

With Afghanistan a central issue at the NATO summit, Hollande's pledge to withdraw 3,400 remaining French troops by the end of 2012, even though the NATO deadline for ending combat operations is late 2014, is also a point of concern. Cameron is expected to ask Hollande, who has made public that he considers France’s mission in Afghanistan to be completed, to reconsider his position when they meet today.

Liberti says the problems that a French early pullout of Afghanistan could pose shouldn’t be overestimated because he says it simply won’t happen. Liberti says he believes the French military won’t have enough time to leave Afghanistan by year's end.

“François Hollande said we were committing to withdraw troops in late 2012,” Liberti says. “Basically, it’s impossible. From a logistic point of view, it’s impossible.”

Yet Liberti says Cameron and Hollande could have heated exchanges in the longer term when EU countries start discussing the budget of the organization.
Hollande was elected on an anti-austerity agenda on May 6, although he gave limited details during the campaign on how he would achieve economic growth. Cameron publicly backed former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was running for reelection, and didn’t meet with Hollande when the latter visited London earlier this year.
Hollande said he would ask European Union countries to renegotiate a fiscal compact on budgetary discipline within the eurozone to boost economic growth. Britain and Czech Republic refused to sign the compact, which was agreed to in March.

Cameron and Hollande belong to different European political traditions. Hollande, a center-left politician of France’s Socialist Party, favors stronger economic and political ties between European countries, while Cameron’s center-right Conservative Party has historically been reluctant to deepen European integration in order to preserve Britain’s independence.
Liberti says Cameron and Hollande are starkly different not only politically but as people.

“On the one hand, you have a British aristocrat and on the other hand the man who said ‘I don’t like the rich,’ ” Liberti says, referring to a statement Hollande made on a television show in 2006 that raised eyebrows in France.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.