28th Oct 2016

France says Brussels 'cannot dictate' economic policy

  • Hollande's remarks recall the dismantling of the Stability and Growth Pact (Photo:

France's President and Prime Minister have said Brussels has no right to tell them which economic reforms to make.

Speaking to AFP on a visit to Rodez, in southern France, on Wednesday (29 May), President Francois Hollande said: "The European Commission cannot dictate to us what we have to do. It can simply say that France has to balance its public accounts, which is true."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He noted: "On pensions, it's a discussion which we will have with our social partners."

He added: "We have respected our European commitment on deficit reduction. But regarding structural reforms, especially pensions reform, it's for us and only us to say what is the right way to attain this objective."

His Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, was equally defiant at a meeting in Matignon, in north-east France, with former German leader Helmut Schmidt the same day.

He said: "We will carry out reforms in our own way."

He noted: "If I think of pensions reform, it's [needed] not because Brussels has asked us to do it, but because we know it's necessary."

He added that his reform programme will help to restore France's "leading position in Europe."

The reactions come after the commission published recommendations for 23 member states, including France, earlier on Wednesday.

It gave France an extra two years to meet deficit targets.

But it also called for reforms in six areas.

It said on pensions the French treasury "will still face large deficits by 2020 and new policy measures are urgently needed to remedy this situation," proposing a hike in the retirement age among other ideas.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told press in the EU capital: "Our message to France is in fact quite challenging."

He added: "France has in the last decade lost maybe even 20 years of competitiveness."

The commission won the right to make the recommendations - which also cover areas such as tax and social policy - under the "European semester" law passed in 2011.

They are non-binding.

A second set of laws - the "two pack," which comes into force on Thursday - gives Brussels real teeth.

Under the two pack, eurozone countries such as France will have to submit their national budgets to the commission in October.

If EU officials do not like them, they can force governments to submit new proposals.

But Hollande's remarks raises the prospect that big EU countries will bully the commission, while smaller member states will have to obey - just as they did with the Union's old Stability and Growth Pact.

For his part, administrative affairs commissioner Maros Sefcovic voiced worry over the two pack at a seminar in April in Slovakia.

He said at the time: "The commission in its history never had more power than it has now."

He noted: "In September or October, the commission will send letters to Estonia or to France saying: 'Show us your budgets. We want to see them first to see if they're sustainable'."

He added: "When I present this [the commission verdict] … people might say: 'Who is this man from Brussels telling us what to do?'."

News in Brief

  1. Budget commissioner Georgieva takes up World Bank post
  2. Walloon parliament votes to accept Ceta
  3. Euro deficit to fall below 2% next year, commission says
  4. Migration and security top Germany's EU agenda
  5. EU finance rules need 'neutral' enforcer, Germany says
  6. Northern Ireland court rejects Brexit case
  7. EU tables Atlantic sea bass fishing ban
  8. EU states issue record number of residence permits

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersUN global sustainable development goals, integration, and security on agenda for Nordic Council Session 2016
  2. Taipei EU OfficeTaiwan Seeks to Join Fight against Global Warming
  3. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  4. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  5. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  6. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  7. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  8. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  10. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  11. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  12. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament

Latest News

  1. Belgium green lights unchanged Ceta
  2. Poland rejects EU 'interferences' on rule of law
  3. On-road emissions tests: How EU failed to change to the fast lane
  4. Dutch PM asks opposition's help on Ukraine agreement
  5. Wallonia's heroic stand against Ceta is a stand for democracy
  6. Calais children abandoned at former camp site
  7. Greece to probe UN allegations of illegal returns
  8. Poland defies EU on rule of law