Raffarin vows to soften but continue reforms

7th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 6 (AFP) - Following the centre-right's pasting in March regional polls, unpopular French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Thursday pledged to pursue less painful reforms and insisted he was still a viable leader.

PARIS, May 6 (AFP) - Following the centre-right's pasting in March regional polls, unpopular French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Thursday pledged to pursue less painful reforms and insisted he was still a viable leader.

"I am the pilot of the government's Airbus," Raffarin said in a live 30-minute televised interview on France 2, two years to the day after President Jacques Chirac first named him to lead his centre-right government.

Asked if he could still be an effective leader after suffering a humiliating defeat in the regional polls, which saw the left take control of 24 of France's 26 regions, Raffarin replied: "I heard what the French people said."

"There is no action without continuity. There is no continuity without being put to the test," the prime minister said.

Angry French voters punished Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party in the March 21 and 28 polls, expressing dissatisfaction with the government's attempt to streamline part of France's large public sector.

Raffarin's reforms have provoked a wave of protests by groups including scientific researchers, lawyers, hospital staff and performing artists, who are threatening to disrupt next week's Cannes film festival.

The prime minister, who was forced to reshuffle his government after the electoral defeat, said he would now pursue "less brutal reforms", delivering an optimistic message on economic growth and jobs creation.

"Today we are on pace to achieve growth of more than two percent. Today, we are in a situation where our country is again creating jobs. In the last quarter, 21,000 jobs were created," Raffarin said.

"We are in a situation in which comsumption is taking off once again, in which investment is taking off again. We're in a situation that is not yet very favorable, but which allows for a return to optimism," he added.

When asked when France's stubborn unemployment rate would begin to drop, Raffarin responded: "During the second quarter of 2004," noting that the rate had been stable at between 9.7 percent and 9.8 percent since last September.

On the subject of gay marriage, he said he preferred a system of civil unions that works rather than "marriage that would distort the purpose of the institution".

Despite threats by arts workers angry over government cuts of their unemployment benefits to disrupt several upcoming festivals including the Cannes film fest, Raffarin said he would stand by the changes.


© AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article