‘We Can Make It’: French Finance Minister
France's economy will come through and "resist the crisis" despite worries about low growth and the need for labor market reform, its Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told CNBC.
Moscovici's comments came after France announced better-than-expected economic growth of 0.2 percent in the third quarter of the year – the same growth rate as Germany, often celebrated as the standout success of the euro zone during the crisis.
France had been expected to fall into recession in the third quarter, along with the rest of the euro zone.
(Read More Euro Zone Slips Into Second Recession Since 2009)
Eyebrows have been raised about whether President Francois Hollande's government can push through the measures needed to sustain growth and stop France lagging behind as Southern Europe reforms http://www.cnbc.com/id/49837078. Hollande seemed to be receptive to labor market reforms proposed by former EADS Chief Executive Louis Gallois last week.
(Read More: Will France Undertake 'Shock' Job Market Reforms?)
"We can make it," Moscovici told CNBC. "It doesn't ensure that we will, but if we go on with our policy of reducing deficits as well as saving the capacity of the consumers to buy projects and reinforce the capacity of our industry to invest, we can have a strong economy."
"I'm satisfied that France will resist the crisis," he added. "This figure is the same as the German growth in the 3rd [quarter] of 2012. Our economy has strong potential. If we are able to mobilize all the forces in France to enhance competitiveness, reduce deficits, to give a solution to all the problems in Europe, we can have potential growth which is superior to what some expect."
Hollande has moved away from the close relationship his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy shared with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and aligned himself with countries like Italy and Spain in the ongoing diplomatic debate over how best to solve the euro zone crisis. He is believed to disagree with Merkel over whether joint euro zone bonds should be issued.
Moscovici conceded that the better-than-hoped for GDP figures did not mean France is out of the woods.
"This is not a motivation to be satisfied. It's not enough to recreate jobs in the country. But it's like an invitation to act strongly in order to create strong growth in France," he said.
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The importance of France's banking sector was reinforced by Moscovici. There has been speculation that some of the bigger banks could be broken up to separate retail and riskier investment banking.
"We are not going to break up the French banks," Moscovici said. "We have a specific model in France of the universal bank – we don't want to break it. I'm very well aware that 400,000 people work for this sector. We're going to introduce strong reforms in order to distinguish in the banking sector what is dedicated to speculation and what is useful for the economy."
(Read More: SocGen Warns Against Bank Breakups)
By CNBC's Catherine Boyle. Follow her on Twitter: @cboylecnbc