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Sarkozy's seven ideas for how to save France

Joshua Melvin · 2 Oct 2014, 10:46

Published: 02 Oct 2014 10:46 GMT+02:00

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As part of his bid to win the presidency of his centre-right UMP party (and possibly the Elysée), ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy is going to tell France how it can pull itself together.

Though the ex-president's proposals are supposed to appear on Friday in Le Figaro Magazine, they have already been leaked to the press.

That's perhaps not surprising given Sarkozy’s heavyweight roll in French politics, and the media blitz he’s been engaged in since announcing last week he’s running for the UMP’s top job.

They come as yet more troubling legal winds are blowing in Sarkozy's direction after a judicial inquiry into his failed 2012 presidential campaign on Thursday snared close aide Eric Cesari, described as the "eyes" of the former president and the ex-financial director of the UMP party.

Here are seven changes Sarkozy believes can save France:

1. Later retirement: Though the issue prompted one of France’s most widespread strike movement in years during his presidency, Sarkozy is advocating for another hike in France’s retirement age. 

He believes the mandatory age for stopping work needs to “quickly go to 63”. Sarkozy famously raised the age from 60 to 62 in 2010, though his successor President François Hollande rolled it back in certain cases, like for people working since they were 18 years old.

2. Civil service cuts: Sarkozy is advocating for a return of the policy in place during his presidency, which saw the replacement of just one of every two civil servants who retire. About one in five French workers are employed by the government. 

He’d also like to resurrect his policy of not paying civil servants for short periods of sick leave, which was undone after he left office due to outrage in the ranks of the civil service.

3. Longer work week: Sarkozy agrees with the long-held right-wing position that France’s 35-hour work week is a job killer.

So he is calling for “companies that would like to drop the 35-hour week via internal negotiation be permitted to do so”.

4. Spending limits: The ex-president believes government spending should not exceed 50 percent of gross domestic product and if it does the government should be forbidden from taking on more debt or raising taxes.

Spending hit 57 percent of GDP in 2013, as part of steady climb since the late 1950s.

5. No new gay rights: Sarkozy’s stance on gay marriage has been a bit fuzzy, though he has repeatedly made statements disparaging the controversial 2013 law.

However he clearly states in his proposals that France must write barriers into its constitution to reserve in vitro fertilization for straight couples. He also says surrogacy should remain outlawed in France.

6. Cut taxes: He doesn’t get too far into the details, but says he’s for a reduction in taxes. He’s also for a harmonization of taxation in Germany and France, which is frequently criticized for having complicated and mercurial tax policies.

7. Referendums: Sarkozy has also called for referendums on parliament reforms, which would be held at the same time as already scheduled elections.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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