• France edition
 
Hollande denies Merkel rift over reforms
Photo: Wikimedia (file)

Hollande denies Merkel rift over reforms

Published: 14 Nov 2012 10:06 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Nov 2012 10:06 GMT+01:00

Addressing his biggest press conference since taking office in May, the Socialist leader said there was no rift with the right-wing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had openly backed Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the presidential election.

Describing Franco-German relations as "good", Hollande denied rumours of a chill between the eurozone's two top economies following reports in the German media that Berlin was worried that Paris would fail to push through decisive economic reforms.

Hollande focuses on spurring growth while Merkel's focus is on austerity-only policies.

"Firstly there are rumours and confidences that are not confirmed," he said. "The reality is that the chancellor and I have a joint responsibility to take Europe forward and nothing must be done to weaken this.

"What counts is not what is said but what we say," he said, referring to himself and Merkel and added: "I speak frankly to the chancellor but we don't give each other lessons."

The comments came amid ruffled feathers over German media reports that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had ordered Germany's so-called "Five Wise Men" of independent economic advisors to draw up reform proposals for France.

The panel and the German government quickly denied they had any such plans.

But the confusion was widely interpreted as a sign of Berlin's displeasure that France could again fail to respect the EU's public deficit limit of three percent of GDP in 2013.

The government is being forced to apply €37 billion ($47 billion) in austerity next year to achieve this.

In a major foreign policy decision, Hollande said France recognized the newly formed National Coalition of the Syrian opposition as the sole representative of the people.

France is the first major power to officially recognize the broad-based opposition coalition established in Doha on Sunday.

He also said the question of supplying arms to the Syrian opposition, hitherto opposed by Paris, would have to reviewed by France and all those countries which recognized the National Coalition.

Hollande, whose opinion ratings have slid to a historic low in the first six months in power, also reiterated his government's pledges to bring an economic turnaround within the government's five-year term.

His press conference came as a new opinion poll showed that 58 percent of the French were unhappy with him, according to a survey conducted by the OpinionWay for the Metro free-sheeter.

"I understand the worries of the French in the face of crisis," he said, outlining "three major challenges -- the reorientation of Europe, reducing French debt and improving competitiveness."

"A weak France will mean an powerless Europe," he said.

On the industrial front, his government faces a winter of discontent.

Thousands of layoffs and factory shutdowns have added to the woes of France, whose share in global trade has shrunk from 6.3 percent in 1990 to 3.3 percent in 2011.

France's hourly labour costs in the manufacturing sector are a fifth higher than the eurozone average. The high cost of employment has been blamed for having helped drive unemployment up to near record levels of just over three million people: that comes to around 10 percent of the workforce.

The socialist government has set a target of eliminating the country's massive trade deficit during its five-year term: last year, it stood at a record €71 billion ($90 billion).

But the government has also announced tax breaks worth up to €20 billion a year aimed at offsetting high payroll taxes that have dulled the competitive edge of French companies.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Obama cheers France's decision to bomb ISIS
France got praise from US President Barack Obama for its decision to bomb ISIS militants. Photo: Jean-Luc Brunet/AFP

Obama cheers France's decision to bomb ISIS

The president of the United States cheered France's announcement on Thursday it would launch airstrikes against ISIS Islamic militants in Iraq. France has previously opposed American military action in Iraq. READ  

French nurse to get 'experimental' Ebola care
A French nurse is to receive 'experimental' treatments against the disease. Photo: AFP

French nurse to get 'experimental' Ebola care

The French nurse who contracted the Ebola virus while helping fight the historic outbreak in Africa is receiving 'experimental' treatments in a Paris hospital that doctors hope will save her life. READ  

France ready to conduct air strikes on Iraq
France's president to hold press conference on Thursday. Photo: AFP

France ready to conduct air strikes on Iraq

During a long-awaited press conference on Thursday, French President François Hollande said he has authorised air strikes in Iraq, joining a US-led effort to stop the lightning advance of Islamic State group militants there. READ  

Ten must-see sites for France’s 'Heritage days'
Here's 10 things not to miss for this weekend's 'Journées du Patrimoine'. Photo: AFP

Ten must-see sites for France’s 'Heritage days'

Once a year France opens the doors on tonnes of fascinating, bizarre and important places that are generally closed to the public. Here are 10 things not to miss this weekend for ‘Heritage days’. READ  

Watchdog urges drop in France’s 'hefty' road tolls
A French government agency says motorway tolls are too high in France. Photo: Motoyen/Flickr

Watchdog urges drop in France’s 'hefty' road tolls

The tolls on France’s privatized motorways are ‘unjustified’ and are delivering an up to 24 percent profit to the companies that run them, a government watchdog says. READ  

Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
Gerard Depardieu says he drinks 14 bottles of booze per day. Photo: John Macdougall/AFP

Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’

Provocative French actor Gérard Dépardieu has revealed the extent of his love for the hard stuff, claiming to drink up to 14 bottles of wine, whisky and Champagne a day. Apparently just making vodka wasn't enough for the "Welcome to New York" star. READ  

France's rail company charged in crash deaths
Photo: AFP

France's rail company charged in crash deaths

France's state-owned railway company was charged with manslaughter on Thursday for the derailment in the Paris suburbs that killed seven people in 2013. A report slammed SNCF for a series of failures that lead to the crash. READ  

Air France pilots threaten 'unlimited' strike
Over half of Air France's flights remained grounded on Thursday due to a pilots' strike. Photo: AFP

Air France pilots threaten 'unlimited' strike

Air France pilots have threatened to continue their strike into a second week because management has not backed down on expanding a low-cost flight company. More than half of Air France flights remain grounded. READ  

Four killed as heavy storms strike France
Flash flooding killed three people in France and left two others missing. Photo: AFP

Four killed as heavy storms strike France

Four people have been killed after flood waters swept through a campground in France after unusually heavy later summer thunderstorms. READ  

First French Ebola patient headed home
The first French Ebola patient was to flown home on Thursday. Photo: AFP

First French Ebola patient headed home

A volunteer with Doctors Without Borders has become the first French person to contract Ebola in the outbreak which is the worst in history and has already claimed more than 2,400 lives READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
National
Ten great bars in Paris only locals know about
Society
France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
National
France to set flat-rate for Paris airport taxis
Politics
French separatists want Scots to say 'yes'
National
Anti-dog poo offensive launched in French town
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
National
'WW2 bomb' kills camper on French island
Does France have a racism problem?
National
National
'Enough gloom, France is an amazing country'
Gallery
The top ten tourist traps to avoid in France
Politics
The juiciest bits from Trierweiler's tell-all book
Politics
Trierweiler tells all: 'Hollande wanted me back, at any price'
Education
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
Politics
Manuel Valls has plenty in common with Tony Blair, but not background
International
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se