Lightining Strikes Hollande's Plane En-Route To France-Germany Talks

  on May 15 2012 2:10 PM
French Vote in Parliamentary Elections
French Vote in Parliamentary Elections Reuters

It was a meeting set to establish the fate of austerity measures in Europe.

But crunch talks between newly elected Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel got off to the worst possible start on Tuesday after the French President's plane was hit by lightning and forced to return to Paris.

Hollande - the first Socialist French President in nearly 17 years --- is at odds with Merkel's German-led package of tax hikes and spending cuts that have characterized the European response to the growing sovereign debt crisis.

The plane could have been hit by lightning. It turned back for safety reasons. Right now, the president has left again, a French official said, according to the Telegraph.

After boarding another flight, the meeting is expected to be delayed by around 90 minutes.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hollande named Jean-Marc Ayrault as his prime minister, following his official swearing in as the leader of the Republic.

Just before boarding the plane, the new President fired another broadside at Merkel's Fiskalpact, calling for growth instead of austerity.

Today many people, starting with those in Europe, are awaiting and watching us, he said.

To overcome this crisis ... Europe needs projects, solidarity and it needs growth.

Under the Fifth French Republic's system, the prime minister is mandated to run the government and can be removed from office by parliament through a no-confidence vote.

I will define the priorities, Hollande said at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday.

But I won't decide on everything for everyone and everywhere, suggesting that Hollande will not act as a micro-manager as his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, did.

Ayrault, 62, has never before held a ministerial office but has long been a politician, including serving as mayor of the city of Nantes continuously since 1986. He is also fluent in German, a skill that may come in handy given that Hollande has the onerous task of trying to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the need to scale back austerity programs in Europe.

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