French Socialist candidate François Hollande visited London on Wednesday, February 29, where he worked to woo the 300,000 French voters living there and to reassure the city financial center that a victory would not be a threat to Europe’s financial markets, the Guardian and the New York Times reported. Hollande and his anti-financial sector proposals have stirred controversy across the continent, as leaders from Germany, Italy, Spain and his French rival found themselves denying a report released in the German magazine Der Spiegel that leaders across Europe had formed a pact to quash Hollande’s lead, though in France, 57 percent of voters responded in a poll that they approved of a proposal to impose a 75-percent income tax on those earning more than €1 million per year, according to the Wall Street Journal, Europe 1, le JDD and Bloomberg.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy found himself on the campaign trail this week, trying to close a gap of several points by which he continues to lag behind Hollande, AFP reported. As Sarkozy’s spokesperson, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet acknowledged the difficulties facing his re-election campaign and accused Hollande of relying on polemics to gain favor, Sarkozy spoke on themes of immigration and integration, as well as the ongoing debate on the spread of Halal meat in France, according to Reuters France, Reuters and le Monde.
Edith Bouvier and William Daniels, two French journalists caught in conflict in the Syrian city of Homs, were evacuated from the city on Thursday, March 1, before returning to France on Friday, March 2, BBC and le Nouvel Observateur reported. Bouvier suffered severe damage to her leg in a series of bombings in the city of Homs that left another French journalist, Rémi Ochlik, dead, according to 20 Minutes. The Paris prosecutor’s office announced on Friday, March 2, that it was opening an investigation into the “murder” of Ochlik, as European and French pressure to stop violence and allow aid into Syria continued to mount this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The European Union met in Brussels on Friday, March 2, to condemn the repression by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, committing to document war crimes there, while President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that France would join Great Britain and the United States in closing its embassy in Damascus, according to the Washington Post.
The French Senate announced on Tuesday, March 6, a budget cut of €20 million, following through on a 3-percent decrease promised by Jean-Pierre Bel, the Senate President who took over control after the Socialist Party took control of the house for the first time ever in September, le Point reported. Included in the announced budget were €2.4 million in cuts to the operational and personal budgets assigned to the senators, as members of the senate also face new laws requiring greater transparency in spending, according to France Soir.