Meeting of socialists: Hollande meets Fico

A Socialist President of France François Hollande is visiting Slovakia. How important is for Hollande, in your opinion, to strengthen ties with other leftist leaders within the EU?

Philippe MarlièreProfessor of French and European politics, University College, London

I don’t think the question of strengthening the links with other social democratic parties in Europe in very high on Hollande’s agenda. It is indeed very low at the moment. He may have a brief encounter with the representative of the Slovakian Social Democratic party, but that’ll be about it.

Unlike the Blair-Shroeder-Jospin year, when much theorising was put into describing their political action in office (notably Blair’s “Third Way”, Schroeder’ “Neue Mitte” or Jospin’s “Modern Socialism”), was caracterises Hollande’s style is a total absence to refer to theory, concepts or authors. His approach is very down-to-earth. Hollande has so may domestic problems to sort at present and in Europe, he seems only interested in what Angela Merkel might think or do.

The traditional business of liaisng with “sister parties” is entirely left to the party leader, Harlem Desir.

Robert LadrechProfessor of European Politics, School of Politics, International Relations & Philosophy, Keele University

First, If the polls are to be believed, the European Parliament which emerges from the elections next year may be more fragmented than ever, with a large amount of euro-sceptic MEPs. This may make it hard for the EP to promote progressive policies. Therefore, the European Council and Council of Ministers becomes even more crucial in terms of progressive policies, so strong relations between France and other left-of centre prime ministers becomes crucial.

Second, Paris hosts in November the really crucial next meeting of the global climate change/warming negotiations (there is a meeting next month in Warsaw and next year in Peru, but the 2015 meeting everyone agrees will be the really big one).  Since climate change mitigation policy involves energy policy, and if Paris wants a successful international conference, getting other governments, especially left-of-centre, on board the environmentalist position, will be very important for Hollande.

Finally, looming changes in how the EU operates economic policy, from banking union to more oversight of national budgets, must have a progressive dimension, and proposals such as Eurobonds, etc, need as much support as possible. Although the German SPD will be in government in Germany, they still have to compromise with Merkel on Germany’s position on these matters, so that leaves France – by default – and the potential leader for a progressive aspect to any changes, and Hollande will need all the help he can get from other left-of-centre leaders for this struggle over the next couple of years.

Jean-Yves CamusPolitical Analyst, Research Fellow, Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS)

I think that first and foremost, President Hollande’s visit is very welcome because it is the first time a French head of State visits your country since it became independent. Slovakia is very rarely in the news here and hopefully my countrymen will learn a little bit more about it.

Then of course, Hollande is keen to meet with other left parties leaders across Europe, and there are not that many. One interesting thing, by the way, is that the left is now as strong in Central and Eastern Europe as in Western Europe, with the Left being in office in Bratislava, Bucarest, Sofia and Zagreb, possibly soon in Prague, while variants of the Left are in office in Ljubljana and Belgrade.

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