Hollande calls for eurozone 'government'

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French President François Hollande has called for more budgetary, social and tax integration, leading to a "eurozone government" during a debate with MEPs.

Addressing the European Parliament on 5 February 2013, he said Europe was more than just "a market, a currency and a set of treaties".

President Hollande - who came to power in 2012 - said he refused to see an EU that was "condemned to endless austerity" and criticised UK prime minister David Cameron for blocking a long-term deal on the EU's budget by insisting on national rebates.

His socialist government has generally favoured tax increases over spending cuts to plug the gap between government revenue and expenditure, including increasing the top rate of 75% tax on incomes over €1m.

However the proposed increase was recently struck down by the French Constitutional Court.

The government was forced to defend the French economy in recent months, after the Spanish Labour Minister Michel Sapin described France as "totally bankrupt".

France's public debt total topped 90% of GDP last year, well above the European Union target of 60%.

European 'empire'

During the debate, the leader of the Liberal group, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt said Mr Hollande's ambitions for EU integration needed to go even further.

"Europe has no future unless we become a true federation - even an empire, in a good sense," he stated.

But the leader of the Conservative group, British MEP Martin Callanan accused Mr Hollande of "brilliantly demonstrating to the rest of Europe what a socialist government looks like", highlighting pre-election promises to cut austerity, but implementing budget cuts once in office.

President Hollande used the debate to defend his decision to send French troops to intervene in the conflict in Mali.

The French intervened in January, fearing that Islamist militants who had controlled Mali's vast north since April 2012, were about to advance on the capital, Bamako.

However UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage claimed the military action was being used by the EU to divert attention from France's economic woes.

"I do not want the UK to be part of a militaristic, war-like European Union," he insisted.

Useful links.

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

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