Europe News

France paying for past mistakes: Economy Minister

We are speeding up reform: French econ min
We are speeding up reform: French econ min

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron has placed the blame for the sustained weakness in his country's economy with previous administrations, saying the country was paying for past mistakes.

"I do think that this feeling (of frustration) is clearly due to our past and we are paying for past mistakes. But first, during the last two years we have started to reform and now we have decided to accelerate these reforms and I do think that we have to deliver more, more rapidly and explain more - that's the key point," he told CNBC on Thursday.

"That's what we want to do and that's what we are doing but it's unfair that the current frustration is due to the current situation, it's due to the past," he said.

France's socialist government has come under fire for failing to reignite the country's weak economic activity. More people are now unemployed in the country than ever before and the government has clashed with trade unions in its efforts to reform the labor market.

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Macron said the country shouldn't have to "pay twice", adding: "we cannot pay for the past."

His comments come after a high-profile report in which proposals were put forward to rescue Germany and France's economies, the largest and second-largest economies in the euro zone respectively.

The economists who authored the report -- Henrik Enderlein and Jean Pisani-Ferry, both professors at Germany's Hertie School of Governance -- proposed a package of reforms and initiatives designed to revive growth. They also warned in their report that both countries had no time to lose in implementing reforms.

"France and Germany need to act now. And they need to act together. The biggest danger we see right now is a period of window dressing where lip service is paid to grand projects and reforms, but no real steps are taken", " the authors said in the 50-page report, noting both countries face elections in 2017."

In mid-October, the two experts were commissioned by the German and the French governments to prepare proposals for economic reforms. On Thursday, the report, entitled "Reforms, Investment and Growth: An Agenda for France, Germany and Europe to Ministers" was submitted to Germany and France's economy ministers Sigmar Gabriel and Emmanuel Macron.

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"Europe cannot afford to disappoint again, neither economically nor politically," the economists added. "In France, we fear lack of boldness for decisive reforms. In Germany, we fear complacency."

Reforms proposed by the economists' report on Thursday were being implemented or would be addressed in parliament in the coming weeks, Macron told CNBC, saying that the report "highlights the current momentum of the French economy at the moment and the importance of French reforms and the importance of accelerating this process."

France and Germany certainly cannot afford to be complacent. Critics believe that while France has been backwards in implementing reforms, Germany hasn't done enough to stimulate consumer spending to boost the wider euro zone economy. Both countries are currently experiencing low growth.

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French gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.3 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter, while Germany managed a meager 0.1 percent in the same July-September period.

France has also missed budget deficit targets set by the European Commission, damaging the country's credibility, though Macron disagreed.

"I think that the current situation in terms of public deficit, is due -- as everybody knows -- to the lack of growth and the lack of inflation. In terms of public expenditure, we are delivering, we've delivered and we will deliver," he said.

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