Priorities for Sarkozy's new government

18th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 18, 2007 (AFP) - The new government appointed Friday by President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to quickly roll out a raft of measures to cut taxes, keep trains running during strikes and relax France's 35-hour workweek.

PARIS, May 18, 2007 (AFP) - The new government appointed Friday by President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to quickly roll out a raft of measures to cut taxes, keep trains running during strikes and relax France's 35-hour workweek.

Sarkozy had pledged to move swiftly after taking over from Jacques Chirac this week to enact sweeping reforms and make good on his promise of a "clean break" from the past.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon will lead Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party into parliamentary elections in June to secure the majority needed to push through the reforms in the eurozone's second largest economy after Germany.

Most opinion polls say the UMP will easily win and most of the ministers appointed Friday will likely stay in their posts after the vote.

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 have warned of mass protests.

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

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 later this year.

His first trip abroad was 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.


Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news

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