With 477 votes in favour and only 70 against, the French National Assembly approved the EU treaty on budget discipline yesterday (9 October), giving François Hollande's ruling Socialists the majority it needed to pass the pact without support from the Conservative opposition. EurActiv France reports.
The law ratifying the fiscal pact was passed despite a small but noisy revolt from left-wingers and Greens that threatened to embarrass Hollande just before an 18-19 October European Union summit.
Hollande rallied 282 left-wing votes in favour, above the 274 required for a majority and sparing him from having to rely on votes from opposition conservatives, who voted largely in favour of ratification.
"This sweeping majority will give France a bigger voice, that is to say it will enable us to forge ahead with the rebuilding of Europe that I have committed to since my election," Hollande said after the result.
The breakdown of votes by political group:
- SRC group (Socialistes, république et citoyen, PS): for 264 / against 20 / abstained 9
- EELV group (Europe Ecologie Les Verts): for 3 / against 12 / abstained 2
- RRDP group (Radical, républicain, démocrate et progressiste, PRG): for 14 / abstained 2
- GDR group (Gauche démocrate et républicaine, Front de gauche, communistes, divers gauche): for 1 / against 13 / abstained 1
- UMP group: for 167 / against 17 / abstained 6
- UDI group (Union des démocrates et indépendants, centre): for 28 / against 1 / abstained 1
- Non inscrits (FN, Dupont-Aignan…): against 7
When former president Nicolas Sarkozy signed up to it in March, the Socialists had opposed the fiscal pact, which holds governments to meet deficit-cutting goals or face sanctions.
Plagued by painful memories of failing to rally his party behind a 2005 referendum on an EU constitution, Hollande persuaded his EU partners at his first summit in June to sweeten the pact with accompanying measures to stimulate growth in Europe.
As recalcitrant left-wingers continued to revolt against the pact this month, Ayrault told them voting against it meant putting the euro's future in danger.
Still, 20 out of the 264 Socialist Party deputies in the lower house voted against the law on Tuesday, along with 12 Greens. Among opposition parties, 13 radical leftists voted against and 17 conservatives.
Hollande is anxious to show that his party will stand united behind him on steps agreed in June to deepen fiscal and economic integration in Europe.
"The Left stood united to vote this treaty and would not have needed the votes of the right," Hollande declared, adding this was "a great satisfaction for the prime minister" Jean-Marc Ayrault.
However, it is only a half-success for the government reports EurActiv France. In terms of votes cast, the Left votes were sufficient to get the text approved (282 when the absolute majority is set at 274). But if one takes into account the number of members present, the bar was set at 284, falling short of 2.
Meanwhile, opponents on Hollande's left view the treaty as handing too much control of national affairs to EU authorities.
"We salute the no vote of a number of Socialist and Green deputies who, like us, reject the shackles this austerity treaty imposes on the people of Europe," said Andre Chassaigne, leader of far-left lawmakers in the National Assembly.
"It will lead our country, like other EU states, towards the abyss of recession," he said.
The fiscal pact enters into force on 1 January 2013 or when 12 of the 17 eur zone member countries ratify it, as half a dozen, including Germany, already have.
The ratification law passes to the Senate on Wednesday and should be finally adopted before the end of the week.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed for an EU treaty change to help enforce fiscal rules and avoid repeats of the debt crises plaguing members of the eurozone.
This led to the signature in March of a fiscal compact for budget discipline which now has to be ratified by the 25 countries which signed up to it.