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France to Ask EU Partners for More Time on Budget: FT

France will press its European Union partners for more time to balance its budget so that it can implement structural reforms, the country's Europe minister said in an interview published today.

Speaking to the Financial Times in Paris, Jean-Pierre Jouyet said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to cut taxes, reduce social charges for employers and reform France's higher education institutions, but these reforms would mean that it would take more time for France to balance its budget.

"You have in this reformed stability pact a margin for manoeuvre that can provide more flexibility when you are realising a reform programme that aims to increase the potential growth rate," Jouyet argued in his interview with the business daily.

"But that will not change the face or the nature of the stability and growth pact." The 13 countries sharing the euro agreed in April to balance their budgets by 2010, but Sarkozy wants to get the deadline pushed back until 2012.

He has taken the exceptional step of inviting himself to a regular meeting of eurozone finance ministers next Monday in Brussels to present his budget plans.

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