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France's Moscovici Says ‘Non’ to Austerity

Tuesday, 14 May 2013 | 8:19 AM ET
France Says 'Non' to Austerity: French Fin Min
Pierre Moscovici, France finance minister, says that he is serious about France's economy but that he and the French people "refuse" austerity.

France's finance minister told CNBC on Monday he is serious about France's economy, but stressed that he and the French people "refuse" austerity.

Pierre Moscovici was relaxed when questioned about how France - which was given two extra years to reduce its budget deficit to within European Union (EU) limits - would use the extra time to push on with structural reforms.

"We'll do what's needed, what we said we would do. We're going to do the necessary but no more than the necessary. I agree on structural adjustments but I'm against over adjustment and there is a difference between being serious and austerity. I want to be serious but I refuse austerity," he said.

(Read More: Eurogroup Chief: France Must Speed Up Reforms)

He said the French public appreciate that things need to change, given the ongoing "crisis situation".

"But they don't want unfair efforts and they don't understand why some efforts put the country into recession, they refuse that so we're looking for the right balance," he said, adding that Europe needed to "fight" for growth during "a very tough year, a year of recession."

French Economy, Finance and Foreign Trade Minister Pierre Moscovici
Bertrand Langlois | AFP | Getty Images
French Economy, Finance and Foreign Trade Minister Pierre Moscovici

This weekend, the president of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said France had to accelerate its reform program after the European Commission gave it a two-year extension to meet EU budget-deficit targets.

"France has to push forward its program. They've now been given two more years to reach their deficit goals. Part of the deal should be they push forward their reforms, and I'm sure that the French government is committed to those reforms," Dijsselbloem told CNBC on Saturday.

(Read More: Hollande One Year On: French-Bashing and 'Communism')

Hollande's Socialist government has been accused of being slow to pursue structural and labor reforms while aiming to raise taxes on the rich via a new wealth tax. On Wednesday, France will release first-quarter GDP data that could put pressure on the government and Moscovici to speed up reforms.

Moscovici's comments came as his colleague, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, revealed plans to tax smartphones, tablets and all other internet-linked devises in a bid to help fund the production of French arts. Filippetti said the new tax on digital products would impact international companies like Apple, Samsung and not the French economy.

"Companies that make these tablets must, in a minor way, be made to contribute part of the revenue from their sales to help creators," the minister added. DigitalEurope, which lobbies in Brussels for smart phone makers such as Apple and Samsung, said the tax was "a move in the wrong direction," Reuters reported on Tuesday.

-By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt

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