9th Aug 2022

France to Brussels: we’re reforming

  • Pensions reform demonstration in Marseille (Photo: Marcovdz)

France is no longer the bad pupil of the Eurozone class: It is doing its homework, and people should know it. That’s the message French finance minister Michel Sapin tried to convey in Brussels on Thursday (7 May).

"Since 2012, France has been in line with its fiscal commitments. It has been engaged in a policy of deep, progressive, and negotiated reforms, which are changing our economic and financial situation," he told MEPs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Sapin tried to explain to MEPs and the commission that France is changing (Photo: Parti socialiste)

Sapin was at a hearing with the European parliament’s committee on economic and monetary affairs about the situation in France - a new procedure, which is part of the EU’s new economic governance structures.

He then met the leader of the conservative group in the parliament, Manfred Weber, and the European Commission vice-president, Andrus Ansip.

The aim was a simple one: make friends in Brussels.

"Manfred Weber plays an important role in the parliament, and he is German," explained Sapin at a press conference before leaving Brussels, referring to the fact German conservatives often criticize France’s lack of reform and the EU’s leniency toward it.

As for Ansip, said the French minister, "it is important that all members of the commission college are as well informed as possible".

For France the timing is crucial, the stake are high, and every sympathetic commissioner will be helpful.

Paris avoided sanctions in March, when French finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici prevailed over commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis and a few other rigorous colleagues in the college discussions.

The commission gave France another delay, until June, to "take effective action and to report in detail" on its strategy to meet deficit reduction targets.

Now France has to deliver and convince people that the changes are effective.

The commission also said, in March, it will consider, in May, whether to recommend a procedure for excessive budget imbalance.

The first judgement will come later this month when the commission publishes its regular country-specific recommendations.

Sapin assured the recommendation for France "will be friendly".

"The figures for 2014 remove any debate about the violation of rules. There is a converging trajectory between what we decided, what was recommended and the projections," he said at his press conference.

Earlier in parliament, Sapin had told MEPs that "France respected its fundamental obligations in 2014" and insisted that ‘France will meet its target, moving under 3 percent in 2017”.

Last year France reduced its budget deficit to 4 percent of GDP, down from 4.3 percent in 2013. It was still well above the 3 percent target, but less than projected.

In its latest economic forecast, published on Tuesday (5May), the commission said: "France’s economic growth is expected to gain momentum over 2015 and 2016”, but it warned that "a lower pace of structural reforms could jeopardise the nascent improvement in household and business confidence and weaken the fragile recovery”.

The French government, which thinks that too much reform would harm economic growth, doesn’t want to hear other calls for change.

"Why is it so difficult for France to get people to understand it is reforming?," Sapin complained to MEPs.

"We do reform, but it doesn’t show enough," he said, citing the decrease in labour costs and a reform on collective dismissal.

While France, the eurozone’s second economy, has an under-the-EU-average growth rate and an above-the-average unemployment rate, Sapin thinks the country’s bad reputation is undeserved.

"We are prisoner of cliches. We are victims of the past, when France said it was reforming but did nothing," he told reporters.

"I understand those who have difficulties in adapting to the new pace. But we have to work. We have to be here [in Brussels], to explain and tell facts, not for the sake of marketing stunts," he added, implying that his predecessor did a poor job.

Before him, France’s finance minister was Pierre Moscovici - today the commissioner in charge of making France keep its promises on reform.

Time ticking on France's deficit

Paris has won a further dey to reduce it deficit, but the European Commission has given three months to present a set of structural reforms.

France wins two-year reprieve on deficit

EU finance ministers Tuesday agreed to give France an extra two years to bring its deficit within EU limits but the leniency has sparked criticism, meanwhile others are calling for similar flexbility.

Almost two-thirds of Europe in danger of drought

Data released by the European Drought Observatory show 60 percent of Europe and the United Kingdom is currently in a state of drought, with farming, homes and industry being affected. Drought conditions have also led to an increase in wildfires.

Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

With the prolonged lack of rain and high temperatures, fears have emerged over water shortages and droughts decreasing crop yields — prompting calls to use less water and reuse urban wastewater for agricultural irrigation.

Brazil pitches itself as answer to Ukraine war food shortages

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is pitching his Latin American country as the answer to the world food crisis following the war in Ukraine. The traditional wheat importer has now exported three million tonnes of the grain so far in 2022.


Exploiting the Ukraine crisis for Big Business

From food policy to climate change, corporate lobbyists are exploiting the Ukraine crisis to try to slash legislation that gets in the way of profit. But this is only making things worse.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us