The newly-formed French cabinet has held its first meeting since the last government was dissolved amid open feuding over economic policy.
As President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls set about trying to revive a stagnant economy a new report suggests the business climate has deteriorated.
The new Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who formally took over the reins from his dissenting predecessor Arnaud Montebourg at Bercy in Paris, is likely to be much more “on-message”.
“We can decide each day to spread bad news and say that France is lost. We remain a big economic and industrial power. We are in a difficult situation, we shouldn’t deny it, we should fight it. But that won’t be done against part of our own side, or against part of the French people. It will be done using all our energy,” he said.
The prime minister told business leaders on Wednesday that all players in the French economy had to put traditional bad habits aside.
“Our country is dying from this posturing,” Manuel Valls said. “Let’s stop systematically bringing into conflict the state and businesses, company bosses and employees, business organisations and unions… Let’s rather look to cooperate.”
The French are now contemplating their third government in Hollande’s third year.
Shed of three left-wing ministers, it is now striving to be pro-business.
Two residents of Carquefou, near Nantes in western France, were optimistic when questioned.
“It can be a good thing to have a banker as economy minister. It’s pretty good for businesses, it’s pretty good for finances to have people who have already set foot in a company,” said a man.
“I hope he will prove himself and maybe help us to get by,” a woman added.
But unemployment is rising, growth is zero and France is struggling to meet its deficit targets.
The European Commission is keeping up the pressure, calling on Paris to urgently speed up its reform plan, aimed at helping the economy by cutting business taxes at the same time as trimming public spending to bring the deficit to within EU limits.
“It is urgent for France but not just France, for the other countries which are in a similar situation to speed up the work they are doing, the structural reforms,” said a spokesman for EU Economic Commissioner Jyrki Katainen.
“What will of course be fundamental will be the respect for fiscal efforts measured in structural terms,” the spokesman added of the Commission’s role monitoring national government moves to bring deficits into line with EU-endorsed limits.
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