France accepts Greek deal, calls for eurozone government

Bruno Le Roux supported calls for deeper eurozone integration. [Assemblée Nationale/Wikipedia]

The French National Assembly was the first national parliament to vote on the Greek debt deal on Wednesday 15 June. MPs accepted the agreement by 412 votes to 69. EURACTIV France reports

The two houses of the French parliament convened on Wednesday 15 June to debate the debt agreement offered to Greece. While the different political parties expressed widely diverging views on the subject, both chambers approved the deal, and a general consensus emerged around strengthening eurozone integration. The National Assembly (France’s lower house) adopted the deal by 412 votes to 69, and the Senate (the upper house) by 260 votes to 23.

Radical left and Communist MPs opposed the deal, as did a number of Greens, but a large part of the opposition came from the Eurosceptic conservatives. 41 of the more right wing members of Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Republicains (LR) party opposed the agreement, and 35 abstained from the vote.

The split vote on the right reflects the leader of the opposition’s change of opinion: after chiding the soft touch of president François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy voted in favour of the agreement.

Bruno Le Roux, the leader of the Socialist group in the French Parliament, welcomed the work of Angela Merkel and François Hollande, but said he feared the deal would lead the EU to be seen as “a debt collection company”.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “some hoped to see the end of the French-German partnership on internal affairs, but we achieved the opposite!” He and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave the same strongly pro-European speech in the Assembly and the Senate respectively.

Calls for a eurozone government

Manuel Valls insisted on the need for greater integration among eurozone states, and supported the position of president Hollande, who had called for the establishment of a eurozone parliament and government during a televised address on 14 July.

>> Read: Eurozone integration plans delayed by Grexit and Brexit threats

“The single currency has not brought convergence. We must progress on all fronts, especially on social issues,” the prime minister said.

“This crisis has shown that we need to take the EU back to the drawing board,” he added.

Europhiles from across the political spectrum confirmed their support for a more integrated eurozone. From the centre, Yves Jego was quick to welcome the idea. He tweeted “I will vote Yes to the agreement to avoid Grexit and in the hope that a eurozone government will be set up soon.”

Socialist MP Bruno Le Roux said, “Only political leadership from the eurozone can put an end to the democratic deficit.”

François de Rugy, the head of the Ecologist party, supported the initiative and encouraged François Hollande to act on his principles. This call has also been taken up by French MEPs, including Jean Arthuis, the Liberal head of the parliamentary budgets committee.

“We have been taken for a ride by a manipulative and cynical government,” said Republican MP Christian Jacob. He welcomed the agreement, but criticised the recent comments of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “We are neither reassured nor convinced of the Greek prime minister’s ability to keep his word,” he added. Many within his party shared this view, and chose to vote against the deal.

The Greens were also split over the deal.

>> Read: Pro-Syriza Socialists criticise French government’s cautious stance

André Chassaigne, the president of the French Parliament’s Communist group, opposed the deal. He said, “Europe continues to impose its financial control on the people, at the expense of economic growth.”

And the comedy prize goes to…

In the morning of Wednesday 15 July, the French government’s spokesman Stéphane Le Foll had denounced the “little accountants” that criticised the Greek deal. “They are not aware of the economic and political cost of Greece leaving the eurozone,” the French agriculture minister said.

The former finance minister and political ally of Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Woerth, hailed the Greek agreement on Monday 13 July as an achievement of none other than… Nicolas Sarkozy. A view that brought an ironic smile to the face of the prime minister.

“I think I understood that you give the credit for Sunday’s agreement to the president of your party. This certainly made me smile and puts you, no doubt in the running for the comedy prize in a few months,” Manuel Valls said. 

The anti-austerity party Syriza won an overwhelming victory in the Greek elections on January 25, but nonetheless failed to obtain an absolute parliamentary majority.

The party leader Alexis Tsipras provoked mixed reactions among his EU counterparts, announcing that the "vicious cycle of austerity is over".

The reforms offered by Athens have failed to convince the Eurogroup and the country's creditors, and Greece now finds itself unable to pay its debts and in a more precarious situation than ever.

>> Read: Greek leftist scores victory over austerity

Friday 17 July: vote on Greek debt deal in the Bundestag

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