France downgrade: French PM downplays rating decision

French PM Francois Fillon gives news conference in Paris Mr Fillon says the downgrade decision had been expected

French PM Francois Fillon has defended his government's economic policies following the decision by ratings agency Standard and Poor's to downgrade the credit rating of France.

He said the government would push ahead with reforms and debt reduction.

Standard and Poor's said Europe's austerity and budget discipline alone were not sufficient to fight the debt crisis and may become self-defeating.

The downgrade stripping France of its top AAA rating was announced on Friday.

The government is on a communications campaign to tell the French there is no need to panic and that the policies of reform and debt reduction will continue as planned, says the BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris.

Mr Fillon told a news conference that if France was in the firing line, it was primarily because of its exposure to the crisis in the eurozone.

"This decision constitutes an alert which should not be dramatised any more than it should be underestimated," he said.

"This decision was expected, even if one could find it came at the wrong time, given the efforts made by the eurozone, which investors are starting to see."

It was not government policies that were under attack from the ratings agency, he said, and so those economic policies would be maintained, with the goal of cutting spending and bringing the annual budget back into surplus by 2016.

Crisis jargon buster
Use the dropdown for easy-to-understand explanations of key financial terms:
AAA-rating
The best credit rating that can be given to a borrower's debts, indicating that the risk of borrowing defaulting is minuscule.
'Long road'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke on Saturday, saying Europe still had a "long road" ahead to restore investor confidence, after the multiple credit rating downgrades of nine eurozone countries in total.

On Friday, S&P's said France was being downgraded one notch, to AA+. The country still has a top AAA rating from the other two main ratings agencies, Moody's and Fitch.

S&P's also said Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal were cut two notches, with the latter two given "junk" ratings. Germany kept its AAA rating.

Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta were the other countries downgraded.

Credit ratings are used by banks and investors to decide how much money to lend to particular borrowers.

The cut in the so-called sovereign ratings of governments is likely to lead to most other borrowers domiciled in the same countries - including banks and companies - being downgraded.

Although the move has been widely expected, it is still likely to make it somewhat more difficult and expensive for borrowers from those countries to raise money, including for the governments themselves.

Country Old Rating New Rating Cut

Austria

AAA

AA+

One notch, loses top rating

Belgium

AA

AA

None

Cyprus

BBB

BB+

Two notches to junk

Estonia

AA-

AA-

None

Finland

AAA

AAA

None

France

AAA

AA+

One notch, loses top rating

Germany

AAA

AAA

None

Ireland

BBB+

BBB+

None

Italy

A

BBB+

Two notches

Luxembourg

AAA

AAA

None

Malta

A

A-

One notch

Netherlands

AAA

AAA

None

Portugal

BBB-

BB

Two notches to junk

Slovakia

A+

A

One notch

Slovenia

AA-

A+

One notch

Spain

AA-

A

Two notches

More on This Story

Global Economy

From other news sites

* May require registration or subscription

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.