Published: 04 Jan 2013 16:14 GMT+01:00 | Print version
Updated: 04 Jan 2013 16:14 GMT+01:00
The European Commission welcomed on Friday efforts by France to reform its struggling economy but played down suggestions that it might give Paris more time to meet public deficit targets.
"We welcome these announcements," a spokesman for EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said, referring to pro-growth and reform statements by French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
"These structural reforms are necessary to make up for the loss of competitiveness by the French economy," Simon O'Connor said.
Faced with an economy on the brink of recession and rising unemployment, Hollande is betting on a mixture of reforms and public investment to give a boost amid an uproar over proposed tax hikes, especially on the rich.
France's 2013 budget is based on meeting the EU public deficit limit of 3.0 percent of gross domestic product, as required by Brussels, but with growth expected to fall short of forecasts, many analysts doubt that this is now possible.
Last month, Rehn told French daily Le Monde in December that Paris could ease up on austerity to focus on growth, higlighting the "structural budget adjustment effort which France is making with remarkable intensity."
He said: "Once you have a credible medium-term budget strategy, backed up by reforms, you can have a slower adjustment." This was a reference to the 3.0-percent target.
His comments were widely taken to mean that Brussels might allow France an extension but O'Connor said this "was not the right interpretation."
At the same time, he noted that the EU had recently allowed Spain and bailed-out Portugal an extra year to meet their targets.
Such flexibility proved that the Commission "is focusing on the structural efforts (being made) and not on the nominal targets," O'Connor added.
Most EU member states have failed to keep their annual public deficit below the EU limit and the debt crisis has only made the position worse.
After focusing on austerity, which many have blamed for exacerbating the economic downturn, Brussels has recently put the emphasis on growth, offering governments some room for manoeuvre.
A proposal to introduce more courses in English and other foreign languages at French universities is set to be debated in parliament from Wednesday amid concerns it will undermine the country's soul and identity. READ () »
A 48-year-old divorced Briton locked in a bitter custody battle confessed on Sunday that he had killed his two young children by slitting their throats near the eastern French city of Lyon. READ () »
As Carlo Ancelotti paid fulsome tribute to the retiring David Beckham the Paris Saint Germain manager revealed an announcement on his own future may be imminent. READ () »
France's disgraced former budget minister, forced out of office over a tax fraud scandal, will not seek re-election to his former parliamentary seat, a newspaper reported Sunday. READ () »
Spain's world championship leader Marc Marquez will start on pole in Sunday's French MotoGP on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans after coming out on top in Saturday's qualifying. READ () »
A man was arrested on Friday after causing a scare at the Cannes Film Festival, where he attacked a TV studio with a gun loaded with blanks and a dummy grenade, police and witnesses said. READ () »
French actor and newly-minted Russian citizen Gerard Depardieu on Saturday compared President Vladimir Putin to the late Pope John Paul II and said the ex-KGB agent is what Russia needs as a leader. READ () »
France became the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage Saturday after President Francois Hollande signed the measure into law following months of bitter political debate. READ () »
Struggling French oyster farmers, whose haul has diminished in recent years, are set to receive some much needed help from their Swedish counterparts, by importing oyster spats from Sweden for the first time. READ () »
France's highest court the Constitutional Council cleared the divisive gay marriage bill on Friday, paving the way for same sex unions to become legal. Francois Hollande said he would sign the bill into law as soon as Saturday. READ () »