Sunday

4th Dec 2022

France wants billions from EU's 'New Deal'

  • Hollande's unpopularity continues to plumb new depths amid the economic downturn (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

France wants €10 billion a year from the EU’s “New Deal” fund, amid warnings that its budget profligacy could harm the “credibility” of EU financial rules.

French economy minister Emmanuel Macron mentioned the figure in an interview with the Journal du dimanche on Sunday (12 October).

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Referring to the European Commission’s plans to create a new investment fund, he said: “Europe needs a New Deal: France is committed to pursuing and even intensifying its reforms; the European Union is announcing a major relaunch plan through €300 billion of investments”.

He added: “That would represent about €10 billion of extra investment in France each year”.

The socialist government under President Francois Hollande has not managed to pull the country out of the financial doldrums.

Since Hollande took over in 2012, France has not registered two consecutive quarters of economic growth and recorded zero progress in the first six months of 2014.

Its debt pile is around 95 percent of GDP, above the 60 percent limit set out in the EU's stability and growth pact.

The French government last week also said it has abandoned attempts to meet the EU’s 3 percent rule on budget deficits in the near future.

Its 2015 budget plan is projected to result in a 4.3 percent deficit in 2015, and the economy is not forecast to reach the 3 percent threshold until 2017.

In an additional blow, Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's last week dropped France's outlook to “negative” and predicted a deficit of 4.1 percent between 2014 and 2017.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington DC on Friday (10 October), the Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also chairs the 18-member group of eurozone finance ministers, described the new budget plans as "simply not good enough" and "too far off target".

Left unchanged they would "damage the credibility of the pact", he said, adding that "the ball is in the court of the French to look at those figures and see what more can be done".

Last year, the European Commission agreed to give France an extra two years to meet the benchmarks.

Under the bloc's revised economic governance rules, all countries must submit their budget plans to the EU executive in October.

The commission then has the power to reject budget proposals and demand further spending cuts or tax rises to plug revenue gaps.

Dijsselbloem said it is "too early to say" whether the commission should reject the French budget, although he indicated that France should not be given the same lenient treatment a second time.

"The question is how was that period of time used … and to be quite open, looking back at that period it was not used and I don't think we should do that again," he said, in reference to the decision to grant a two-year extension.

For its part, Paris has argued that making additional cuts on top of the €50 billion of savings included in the draft budget would deepen the country's economic woes.

Dijsselbloem, together with German finance minister Wolfgang Schaueble and other northern European ministers, has been critical of the slow pace of reform in France and Italy, arguing that increasing labour market flexibility and reforming pension and welfare systems are a prerequisite for economic recovery.

"The eurozone must get its act together," said Dijsselbloem, adding that "no monetary or fiscal stimulus can substitute for making economies more competitive".

Ministers play down French budget row

EU finance ministers played down the prospect of a row with France at their monthly meeting on Monday, but insisted that the bloc's rules have to be respected.

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