Europe, taxes, strikes: Sarkozy to tackle all in first 100 days

6th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to roll out a raft of measures during his first 100 days in office to cut taxes, keep trains running during strikes and bust open France's 35-hour workweek.

PARIS, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to roll out a raft of measures during his first 100 days in office to cut taxes, keep trains running during strikes and bust open France's 35-hour workweek.

Sarkozy, who won victory in Sunday's election, has pledged to move swiftly after the handover from Jacques Chirac to enact sweeping reforms and make good on his promise of a "clean break" from the past.

His first trip abroad will be to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to re-start the Franco-German engine of Europe, followed by Brussels to discuss the way forward for the European Union.

To break the logjam over France's "non" vote for the EU constitution in the 2005 referendum, Sarkozy has proposed that parliament adopt an EU mini-treaty that would get EU institutions up and running.

But the 52-year-old son of a Hungarian immigrant who will be France's fifth president since Charles de Gaulle has said he first plans to take some time after the election to shut out the clamor of the campaign and prepare for the solemn duties of head of state.

The first order of business for Sarkozy after taking office around May 17 will be the appointment of a prime minister ahead of legislative elections in June.

Francois Fillon, 53, Sarkozy's close political adviser and a former social affairs and education minister, and Jean-Louis Borloo, 56, the employment minister, head the list of possible new prime ministers.

The new head of government will lead Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party into legislative elections to secure the majority needed to push through reforms in the eurozone's second largest economy after Germany.

Sarkozy has promised to bring unemployment, one of the highest in Europe at 8.3 percent, down to below five percent by 2012.

He wants to stimulate growth through various tax cuts, the first of which will be contained in a package to be submitted to an extraordinary session of the newly elected parliament in July.

The first test of a Sarkozy presidency could well come with a bill to be presented this summer to force public-sector monopolies, notably in transport, to ensure minimum services during strikes.

The proposal has angered unions who see it as a unilateral move and sparked warnings of mass protests.

"If I'm elected president, there will be a minimum service in transport," Sarkozy vowed last week.

"There will be three hours in the morning to get to work on strike days and three hours in the afternoon to get home," he said, brushing aside complaints from the leader of one of the biggest unions, the CGT, Bernard Thibault.

"If Mister Thibault doesn't like it, I'm sorry, but it's the French who choose."

Sarkozy has sharply criticised the 35-hour workweek brought in under a Socialist government, saying it has undermined France's competitiveness, but stopped short of saying he will scrap it altogether.

He plans to exempt overtime worked above 35 hours from tax and social charges, a measure intended to encourage employees to work longer hours, boost their salaries and their purchasing power.

During his campaign, Sarkozy has promised to bring down taxes by four percentage points -- although economists are sceptical that this can be done without putting the state in dire financial straits.

In the suburbs where the former interior minister is widely disliked and which were rocked by riots in late 2005, Sarkozy has promised a "Marshall Plan" to provide training for unskilled youth and prevent them from turning to crime.

As part of what he has termed his "results-driven" approach, a pared-down government of 15 ministers is to be appointed, at least seven of whom will be women.

He plans to appoint a constitutional commission that will present recommendations on amendments needed "for the new way of governing" that will be presented to the legislature in the fall.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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