French Presidential Candidate Hollande 'They'll Have to Listen to Me'
Part 3: 'There Will Be a Balanced Budget at the End of My Term'
SPIEGEL: You don't just want a new fiscal pact. You've also announced that you would like to see the 1963 German-French friendship treaty replaced by a new one to mark its 50-year anniversary. Is it outdated?
Hollande: No. We do want to properly celebrate it next year. The Elysée Treaty had a highly symbolic character. (Former German Chancellor Konrad) Adenauer and (former French President Charles) de Gaulle made a pact that overcame what once separated us, and it has placed our relationship on a basis of trust. In retrospect, the youth exchanges between the two countries seem particularly important to me.
SPIEGEL: Why a new treaty then?
Hollande: Updating the treaty 50 years later would send a strong message. My main goal would be to say: Germany and France are pinning their hopes on young people, in terms of education, science and innovation. It would enable us to set a good example for Europe. Perhaps we could agree that young people could complete internships in German and French companies, and that we devote more effort to learning each other's languages once again. We could also agree to jointly address the challenges our planet faces: the warming of the climate and new technologies.
SPIEGEL: Are you trying to cover up political differences of opinion with a nice gesture?
Hollande: Symbols mean a lot in politics. They indicate a will and create new realities.
SPIEGEL: France has more than 1.7 trillion ($2.24 trillion) in debt, and your political platforms contain costly promises, like 60,000 new jobs in education and a reduction of the retirement age to 60 for French people who entered the workforce early. You want to spend an additional 20 billion. Aren't you promising the moon?
Hollande: Everything I propose is backed up with solid financing, including the 20 billion. There will be a balanced budget at the end of my term.
SPIEGEL: A rival on the left has already called you "Hollandreou," in reference to Greece's former socialist prime minister, who was forced to adopt a tough austerity plan. Will you also disappoint the left?
Hollande: There is always a left that thinks it is never enough. But we'll fail if we ask for too much now.
SPIEGEL: You want to tax annual incomes in excess of 1 million at a rate of 75 percent. Isn't that populism from the left?
Hollande: The 75 percent isn't shocking. What is shocking is a salary of more than 1 million. In 2010, in the middle of the crisis, the chairmen of France's largest publicly traded companies raised their salaries by 34 percent. That's the reason for my proposal. In the crisis, they can be expected to be patriotic, which also includes solidarity.
SPIEGEL: After Sarkozy, who is seen as the president of the rich, do you intend to be the president who hates the rich?
Hollande: I don't like indecent, unearned wealth. But it is legitimate for an entrepreneur who has created something to make a good living.
SPIEGEL: Sarkozy accuses you of stigmatizing success.
Hollande: If I were to support failure, I would support Nicolas Sarkozy.
SPIEGEL: Have you already won the election? The polls predict an historically high victory of about 58 percent for you.
Hollande: If it reassures those who are mobilizing against me in European capitals, a lot can happen in two months. The incumbent is a fighter. He is lashing out, using the issues of the extreme right, like immigration, to score points. I, on the other hand, will not modify my platform. And I'll avoid cheap polemics and extreme aggressiveness. I want to convince French voters.
SPIEGEL: After his 1981 election victory, François Mitterrand, your role model, visited the grave of the great socialist reformer Jean Jaurès at the Pantheon. Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated with billionaires at Fouquet's, a luxury restaurant. Which symbol would you choose to demonstrate that you are a different president?
Hollande: Mitterrand had a sense for symbols, and he was the first Socialist president since 1958. He wanted to show that there is historical continuity, a connection with the great figures of French history. I, on the other hand, would become president in a completely different context. To me, it's important to preserve proximity to the people. I wouldn't do anything pretentious, and nothing that hurts the people who voted for me. Triumphalism isn't my thing. One is president of all the French.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Hollande, we thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Mathieu von Rohr and Romain Leick; translated from the German by Christopher Sultan