France runs into German wall on EU growth drive
"Cameron and Merkel impose austerity on Hollande" was how the conservative Le Figaro summed up the meeting.
Hollande could have expected a hero's welcome in Brussels for his handling of his first war in the African state of Mali, where French forces have driven al Qaeda-linked rebels out of its main northern towns and into the hills.
Moreover, with Cameron having put Britain's EU membership on the line by promising a referendum on it if re-elected, last week's summit could have offered France and Germany the stage to rally together in a demonstration of European solidarity.
But in the budget wrangling that ensued, it was Hollande who looked isolated as his efforts to forge a coalition of southern and eastern European states demanding more generous spending were quashed by Germany, Britain and other northern countries.
EU officials were mystified when Hollande, citing other engagements, chose not to attend a pre-summit huddle with Cameron, Merkel and EU President Herman Van Rompuy on Thursday afternoon where key details of the deal were hammered out.
From then on, what Cameron called the band of "like-minded budget disciplinarians" including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland had the upper hand and for France, it was a matter of salvaging what it could from the summit.
While the overall EU farm spending of which France is the main beneficiary will fall sharply from its 2007-2013 level, Hollande managed to limit the damage to French farmers with a small rise in related funds for rural
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