British press worried by events in France, Italy

11th April 2006, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, April 11, 2006 (AFP) - Voting trends in the legislative elections in Italy and the nixing of a youth jobs plan in France augur ill for economic reform in these major European countries, British newspapers warned Tuesday.

LONDON, April 11, 2006 (AFP) - Voting trends in the legislative elections in Italy and the nixing of a youth jobs plan in France augur ill for economic reform in these major European countries, British newspapers warned Tuesday.

The Financial Times said that despite obvious differences "both events highlight how little headway some key European countries are making on structural reform, just as globalisation requires them to move faster."

Pending final voting results, the daily said the government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was "in danger of losing power" and that of France's Dominique de Villepin risked "breaking its back over labour reform."

"In Italy, even if the centre-left led by Romano Prodi wins, its margin might not be big enough to free him from having to heed the wishes of his far-left coalition partners," the leading international business daily said.

"The latter want to scale back Berlusconi government incentives that encourage the hiring of workers on temporary contracts, thus giving some flexibility to otherwise rigid labour law," it said.

"In France, a labour market retreat has already happened," the daily said.

"In the face of student and union protests, the government has abandoned its flexible youth contract plan and returned to its bad old habit of trying to subsidise young people into jobs," it added. "The stumbling block to reform in both countries is not so much some Latin aversion to change but internal political rivalries."

The conservative newspaper The Times ran two separate editorials on Italy and France, but stressed some of the same concerns.

"For Signor Berlusconi, a defeat would be richly deserved — not so much for his failure to make best use of a majority during the past five years, as for running a campaign so appalling, and so vulgar, that he became a national embarrassment," The Times said.

"Instead of admitting that reform has been harder than expected... the Italian prime minister alternated between uncosted and nakedly populist tax breaks and shrill, even obscene, invective."

If Prodi's "coalition proves victorious, it would be a triumph of the inchoate over the unspeakable," The Times wrote. "Worse it would signal a halt to Italy's experiment in free-market methods."

The French government's decision to scrap its First Jobs Contract has "all but finished the political prospects" of Villepin, cut into President Jacques Chirac's credibility, and "killed off any hope of broader labour market reform before the 2007 presidential election," The Times said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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