• 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.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
IMF board expresses confidence in Lagarde
Christine Lagarde, who revealed she had been charged on Wednesday after being questioned as part of a corruption investigation. Photo: AFP

IMF board expresses confidence in Lagarde

The board of the International Monetary Fund has reiterated its support for Managing Director Christine Lagarde, after a French court placed her under formal investigation in a graft scandal. READ  

Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws
Meeting your French in-laws doesn't have to be scary. Photo: AFP

Top 10 tips for dealing with your French in-laws

Even back home meeting the in-laws for the first time is scary, but as a foreigner in France it's doubly stressful. So here's ten tips from the Comme une Française blog to help you survive and even thrive with your new family. READ  

How France compares to Europe:  Unemployment
How does France compare to its neighbours when it comes to unemployment.Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

How France compares to Europe: Unemployment

The jobless total in France hit a new record high this month with 3.424 million people out of work. Is it only in France that records are being broken? The Local takes a look at why the numbers are more positive in at least some of France's neighbours. READ  

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight
A Frenchman freaked out on a US plane over a reclined seat and is in big trouble. Photo: Doug/Flickr

Frenchman flips out over reclined seat on US flight

A Parisian man faces jail after losing his cool on a France-bound flight from the US over a passenger who reclined his seat just a bit too far. His outburst comes on the heels of the now infamous “Knee Defender” melee aboard another American plane. READ  

French police in race to find sick British boy
Ashya King, who police in France are desperately trying to track down. Photo: YouTube/Naveed King

French police in race to find sick British boy

Police in France and Britain faced a race against time on Friday in their hunt to find a five-year-old boy with a brain tumour who officials in France believe was "kidnapped" from a UK hospital by his family. READ  

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'
A third of French women say they afraid to walk in their neighbourhood. Photo: Takato Marul/Flickr

French women's safety fears 'due to inequality'

Recent studies suggest women in France do not feel safe walking the streets of their neighbourhoods and many are afraid of walking around Paris at night. Some argue that gender inequality in the country is partly to blame. READ  

Feature - Wingsuit flying
Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps
Wingsuit flying has taken off in France despite dangers. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

Thrill-seekers risking life and limb in French Alps

A mountain in the French Alps has become a hot spot for the high-risk and often deadly extreme sport of wingsuit flying. And the seemingly hairbrained alpine activity where "there is no margin for error" attracts a lot of "dangerous egos". READ  

British killer escapes from hospital in France
French police have launched a manhunt for an escaped British killer. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

British killer escapes from hospital in France

A mentally ill British man is on the run in France after escaping from a psychiatric hospital, where he was forcibly committed after beating a man to death with a four-kilo weight. READ  

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?
France may not be suffering from a brain drain after all, but it's not as attractive as the UK or Germany. Photo: Leaving.

Does France really suffer from a brain drain?

The latest European Union figures cast a bit of doubt on worries the moribund French economy is prompting a mass brain drain. However the stats do suggest France is far less attractive than the UK and Germany when it comes to certain professions. READ  

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations
Bed bugs are biting in France. Photo: Shutterstock

French cities struggle with bedbug infestations

The infestation of French cities by bed bugs is worse than ever before with hygiene services overwhelmed, according to reports. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Culture
VIDEO: Francophile Robin Williams enjoyed poking fun at the French
Travel
Six reasons why France is the world's top tourist destination
International
Remembering the 'forgotten campaign' in the liberation of France
Gallery
VIDEO: French bucket list - The 12 best things to do in France
International
Do three French cities deserve to be in top 10 "World 's Most Unfriendly"?
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