By Ray Fleming

FRANCOIS Hollande's election as President of France in succession to Nicholas Sarkozy is likely to cause uncertainty in the European Union during the coming months at a time that stability is needed. The predictably confused result of the elections in Greece will add to uncertainty as will the referendum in Ireland on 31 May on the fiscal pact reached by the Eurozone in March, the French parliamentary elections in June and the Dutch general election in September. Meanwhile the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting trouble at home; her coalition lost ground at the weekend in Schleswig-Holstein state elections and may suffer an even more important setback in North Rhine-Westphalia next weekend.

President Hollande has committed himself to reopening the Eurozone fiscal pact so laboriously negotiated, principally by Merkel and Sarkozy, and adopted as an essential discipline for economic recovery; he wants it to reflect the need to generate growth as well as the necessity of austerity.

Whether such a reconciliation of conflicting policies can be achieved -- both on paper and in reality -- remains to be seen. It will be a very early test of Hollande's ability to deliver the promises he made to the French people in the election campaign and it's possible he may be right in sensing that the European public wants to be shown some sign that recovery is achievable in their lifetime.


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