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France sends warning to EU over budget reforms

The Local/AFP · 19 Mar 2015, 08:26

Published: 19 Mar 2015 08:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2015 08:26 GMT+01:00

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French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday that EU rule-breaking France would meet all commitments to fix its bloated budget, but refuse any measures that weakened growth.

Despite calls for action from some of the EU's 28 member states, but not powerful Germany, Brussels last month gave the French government until 2017 to meet the bloc's three percent of output deficit limit.

"Any new effort (by France) that translates into weakened growth would be unwise," the pro-reform Valls said on a visit to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.

"I would never commit France or my government to a path that would be contrary to our objectives on growth," Valls added during a joint news conference with Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker.

Struggling France, the EU's second biggest economy, has repeatedly missed its public spending targets agreed with Brussels and was under threat of penalties for breaking the rules.

In last month's deal, France committed to work down its public deficit  -- the difference between government spending and revenue -- from 4.0 percent of annual gross domestic product at the end of 2015 to 2.8 percent in 2017.

But in an effort to maintain some measure of pressure, the commission also ordered France to report back on reforms in three months, deeming that commitments pledged so far by Paris fell short.

Valls said the tight timetable "will be respected and all the measures to reach them will be taken".

"My message (to the EU) was clear: nothing will be done to break the momentum of reforms we have committed to," he said.

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The visit by Valls came just days ahead of local elections in France, where the far right and eurosceptic National Front is widely expected to make a historic breakthrough.

Valls is leading the campaign for the ruling socialists, and warned that singling out France could fuel anti-European sentiment.

"I don't believe in a Europe that punishes, but one that acts," Valls said.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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