Sunday

19th Jan 2020

French minister bashes Barroso, again

Another French minister has launched a personal attack on European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

Industry minister Arnaud Montebourg told France Inter radio on Sunday (23 June) that the commission's austerity policies have helped far-right parties, such as France's National Front, and anti-establishment parties, such as Italian comic Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, to surge in popularity.

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He said "Mr Barroso is the fuel of the French National Front. That's the truth. He is the fuel of Beppe Grillo."

He noted: "I believe the main cause of the rise of the National Front is related to the way in which the EU currently imposes considerable pressure on democratically elected governments."

He rounded on Barroso's recent remark, in the International Herald & Tribune newspaper, that French politicians who want an exemption for culture in EU-US trade talks are "reactionary."

"You have the President of the European Commission who is saying that 'everybody who is against globalisation are reactionaries.' I mean, these are the kind of people who have institutionalised the European Union as being against the European people," he said.

"The European Union is not moving. It's paralysed. It doesn't respond to any of the popular aspirations of [European] people, whether in the field of industry, the economic field or the budgetary field, and, ultimately, it gives weight to all the sovereignist, I would say all the anti-European, parties in the EU," he added.

Montebourg spoke after the National Front trounced his ruling Socialist party in a weekend by-election in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, in southern France.

His verbal mauling is the latest in a series of French attacks on the commission leader.

Last week, a prominent Socialist MP, Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, said Barroso should retract his remarks on "reactionaries" or quit.

Last month, French leader Francois Hollande told Barroso he "cannot dictate" economic policies after the commission told him to reform his pensions system.

The Brussels-bashing comes amid a plunge in Hollande's popularity and amid a surge in French unemployment.

An Ifop poll on Sunday put Hollande's approval rating at 26 percent, making him the most unloved leader in the country's modern history.

His party has now lost eight by-elections since he came to power last May.

For its part, Insee, the French statistics body, last week said unemployment will rise from 10.4 percent to 10.7 percent by the end of the year despite multiple government initiatives.

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