Hollande appeals for time to improve French economy
With the economy stalled and his approval ratings in freefall, French president François Hollande yesterday appealed for time to reverse unemployment trends and restore France’s fortunes.
In his first formal press conference since coming to office in May, Mr Hollande said he should be judged not on short-term mood swings but on his success over five years. “Decline is not our destiny,” he said, promising to make France more competitive and balance the budget for the first time in 40 years.
Amid reports of German concern over the state of France’s economy, Mr Hollande dismissed talk of strains in the relationship between Paris and Berlin. “We speak to each other frankly, the chancellor [Angela Merkel] and I, but we don’t teach each other lessons because Franco-German relations aren’t based on lessons, except perhaps on the lessons of history.”
Mr Hollande said the two countries usually had different starting points but, noting that Dr Merkel faced an election next year, implied domestic concerns were influencing her positions at EU level.
“We in France more than others have to prove our seriousness and our competitiveness, more than Germany, and that’s what we are doing. And Germany . . . has to prove its solidarity, which is not easy when a country has made such an effort to become what it is today.”
Flanked by his entire cabinet, Mr Hollande sought to reassert his authority after a series of controversies caused by ministers questioning government policy. Polls give him approval ratings as low as 36 per cent, down from above 60 per cent when he took power, but he said he would not be swayed from his goals.
“The recovery will take time but I believe we can succeed. I want young people to be living better in five years’ time.”
Mr Hollande reiterated a pledge to bring the deficit down to 3 per cent of gross domestic product next year and stuck to the forecast of 0.8 per cent growth for 2013, which the European Commission believes is too optimistic.