France takes aim at Britain

 
French President Francois Hollande addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 5 February Mr Hollande gave his speech two days before the budget summit

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French President Francois Hollande is preparing for a tough negotiation this week over the EU budget. Speaking at the European Parliament, he said "the negotiations are very difficult'' and there is not, in his view, a deal in place.

If there is a fight, the French finger of accusation seems to be already pointing at Britain. Several countries agree with the UK in seeking a freeze in EU spending allowing for inflation but Prime Minister David Cameron is seen as taking the hardest line over future spending. There are persistent rumours that further budget savings will be proposed by cutting back on infrastructure and energy projects. President Hollande indicated he would oppose such cuts. "Yes to making cuts," he said, "but no to weakening the economy."

The French president also criticised Britain for clinging on to its rebate, which is worth about £3bn (3.5bn euros; $4.7bn) a year. ''There are those who want to see cuts," said Mr Hollande, "[and] others - possibly the same - who want guarantees on their own rebate." He is likely to have the support of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in making this argument.

Francois Hollande is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. David Cameron spoke to her on Monday and afterwards Downing Street briefed that the two leaders had agreed that the current proposal on the table - 973bn euros over seven years - had to be reduced further. The Germans, who were optimistic last week that a deal could be done, will come under pressure in Paris to compromise.

But President Hollande's first speech to the European Parliament was very much aimed at his own voters. During the election last year he made growth his priority. This speech, in part, was an explanation as to why he has not been able to deliver. Since he took office, unemployment in France has continued to rise and now stands at 10.7%. In the third quarter last year, France registered almost no growth and its forecasts for this year are probably overly optimistic. Consumer confidence in France is weak.

So where does the fault lie? Firstly, the strong euro which has strengthened in recent weeks. The French president fears it will harm French exporters and so weaken growth. The euro, he said, should not be allowed to "fluctuate depending on the markets' mood". He did not call for exchange rate targets but there will be international concern that, as countries jostle for export markets, a battle over currencies will follow.

The French president also put pressure on Germany when he said that strong eurozone states must act to increase demand. It has been a familiar French theme. The view in Berlin is that France has been slow to embrace structural reforms like making it easier to hire and fire workers that would, in the long term, boost growth. They see the French president as being unwilling to confront his natural supporters, the unions.

The president said that the eurozone had largely put its crisis behind it but could not afford endless austerity. He warned that national interests were threatening to overtake European interests. In what seemed another reference to Mr Cameron, he said that there could not be a two-speed, or a la carte, Europe. We must move forward together, he said, or we will not move forward at all.

 
Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 399.

    397 Chris

    "The auditors did not sign them off but passed them back to the commissioners"

    This is what is meant by:

    "The accounts have been signed off but with qualification (error over 2%)"

    The enclosed link will explain how the system works

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_Auditors

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 398.

    #397 Chris London

    -- honest auditors --crooked national governments.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 397.

    332.margaret howard
    the last set of accounts outlined discrepancies of over 20% within a number of areas, more importantly the errors could not be explained. The auditors did not sign them off but passed them back to the commissioners.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 396.

    #394 dmr

    "Liv, its not called the Bolshevik Broadcasting Company for nothing."

    --does that imply your children are working again ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 395.

    #394 dmr

    "If its the wrong blog, why did you bring up UK numbers?"

    out of courtesy.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21357085

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 394.

    Still by percentage I expect there are similar numbers, if we include police, teachers it will probably be a similar number to UK.
    Cameron is rightly shrinking the civil service which had become bloated under Labour.
    If its the wrong blog, why did you bring up UK numbers?
    Liv, its not called the Bolshevik Broadcasting Company for nothing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 393.

    #392 dmr

    -- I believe in Germany that also includes staff working in/for hospitals, universities etc. Those who cannot be fired are ´Beamten´--that also includes mostly teachers and police --they all come under ´civil service´--


    --Wake up !

    WRONG BLOG !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 392.

    QOT, that's quite an impressive figure, Germany boasts no less than 4.6 million civil servants. Maybe they could learn something from us.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 391.

    389 liv

    Yeah nice try. The BBC or the Kremlin propaganda machine. Tough call that one.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 390.

    #389 Liv

    "Why no footage of the protests in Greece on BBC or Sky ?"

    -- Greek restaurants all over Europe are going bankrupt.

    --more bad news from Greece is not appreciated.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 389.

    Why no footage of the protests in Greece on BBC or Sky ?

    Masses of people holding flags with pictures of Merkel next to swastikas.

    It's on RT news. Any reason why the BBC avoid covering this ?

    Also, Russia have arranged mediation between the factions and the government in Syria in the last week. No coverage of that either.

    Your publicly funded and supposed to be independent, BBC.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 388.

    287. Chris London
    "..my earlier point - the EU and Euros fiscal issues have not gone away they were only ever kicked down the road for a while. They will re materialise."

    Neither of us is a prophet. I doubt that this weeks budget negotiations will bring a final result, the positions are just too diverse.

    If Europe's wise men decide to destroy and ridicule the EU, what can I do about it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 387.

    383 suilerua

    Even a cursory glance at multiple sites will provide plenty of references stating that the Union army was 25% foreign and the Confederates 10%. Not sure what your self-determined threshold for "decisive" is but General Lee even commented how the Confederacy had no chance to defeat a Union army full of foreigners.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 386.

    I don't know what this nonsense MH raised has to do with Britain, France, and the EU.Typical unfocused drivel.

    IMO the real 800 pound gorilla in the room nobody talks about isn't Italy going broke but France.French megalomania seems to be a problem in every era. It invariably leads to catastrophe.The EU is just the latest example.And they always point the finger elsewhere.This time it's the UK

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 385.

    338. Dailymailreader
    "QOT, the only reason our burgers are full of horsemeat is because of EZ supliers"

    I regret the fact that continental horse meat ended up in insular burgers, pretending to be beef.
    There are still horse butchers in Vienna and their products are excellent.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 384.

    #381 tonep

    " That pamphlet shows the British were right all along," ?

    -- You are claiming the majority of Brits were wrong --but the Brits were right all along ?????

    -- or only Tories can be Brits ?

    -- You are not eating horse meat because you voted for beef even when horse meat was on the menu ?

    -- He Haw, He Haw, He Haw --for a change ?

    --donkey burger anyone ?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 383.

    382 The Union Army had more than 2,210,000 personnel

    But 373 said "Without European troops the War of Independence could not have been won and neither could the Civil War"

    Irish and German Americans were US citizens, not foreigners.Foreign volunteers existed but their numbers(under 100K)were small, insignificant compared to the total size of the Union Army.No cigar for you or MH.Not decisive

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 382.

    #375 sieuarlu

    "I can't remember where foreign toops fought in the Civil War let alone weree decisive. Remind me."

    --a definition problem -were those who fought in the Spanish Civil war Spaniards ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_enlistment_in_the_American_Civil_War

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 381.

    379 quiet

    I asked you to spare us the bull....not produce a field full more of it. There is nothing in any Treaty about a federal Europe. That pamphlet shows the British were right all along, Europe facing a crisis would be bumrushed into further integration without the consent of the people and without Treaty provision. And you think the British are breaking treaties, no, the Eurozone is.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 380.

    The "bailout" of Greece consisted of writing off tens of billions of debt as unpayable and largely transferring figures from unpaid debts on the books of German banks to debts owed to German pensioners and Germany's general government revenues. What changed in regard to Greece's ability to compete and pay for its EU lifestyle?Absolutely nothing, they haven't even collected taxes from the wealthy.

 

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