The Latest: French Socialist candidate meets Merkel, Schulz

The Latest on France's presidential campaign (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

French Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon has assailed European austerity policies as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, arguing that they have helped fuel the far right's rise.

Hamon has met with Merkel and her center-left rival Martin Schulz in Berlin. He followed conservative Francois Fillon and independent Emmanuel Macron in making the trip to France's biggest European partner.

Hamon said after meeting Merkel that they agreed on reinforcing European defense and on energy issues, but differed on economic matters.

He told reporters: "I repeated to her my disagreement with austerity policies, the consequences that they have had on people, the fact that they have produced today social desperation that produces votes for the far right."

France's two-round presidential election will be held April 23 and May 7.


9:40 a.m.

The wife of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon is facing preliminary charges over well-paid parliamentary jobs that investigators suspect she never performed.

Fillon himself has already been charged in the case, which has deeply damaged the conservative candidate's chances for the two-round election April 23 and May 7. He is suspected of embezzlement and other charges.

Penelope Fillon is expected to face investigating judges Tuesday in Paris who can hand her preliminary charges in the case.

Investigators recently expanded the probe on suspicions that the couple falsified documents after the investigation opened to prove that Penelope carried out parliamentary work for her husband.

The Fillons have denied wrongdoing. Francois Fillon, once the front-runner, calls the investigation a smear campaign to torpedo his presidential campaign.