Villepin vows 'no taboos' in fight against unemployment

6th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 5 (AFP) - New French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin pledged Sunday he would lead the first government in France to devote all its energies "without taboos" to tackling the country's stubborn rate of more than 10 percent unemployment.

PARIS, June 5 (AFP) - New French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin pledged Sunday he would lead the first government in France to devote all its energies "without taboos" to tackling the country's stubborn rate of more than 10 percent unemployment.  

Villepin chaired a brain-storming session of the 31-member cabinet appointed following the French electorate's rejection of the European Union's constitutional treaty on May 29.   

The rejection betrayed not only suspicion of the European project but also massive disaffection with the government under President Jacques Chirac.  

Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope, giving an account of the meeting, said Villepin told ministers that their "absolute priority" must be the battle against unemployment.   

"We are not the first government to mobilize for employment, but I want us to be the first government that consecrates all its energy, without taboos, to mobilizing the whole nation" against unemployment, he was quoted as saying.   

"Decisions will be taken before the summer," Villepin told the Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, pledging "rapid results" and saying that he wanted to be judged "on actions."   

"We will act carefully and fairly. I want this country to move forward on two legs, with policies that strike the right balance between solidarity and freedom."  

Villepin, 51, a career bureaucrat who has never faced an election, replaced the unpopular premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who was dismissed in the wake of last week's referendum that saw nearly 55 percent of French voters oppose the EU's first-ever constitution.   

Political observers saw some significance in the reference to taboos, which they said could mean the government will look outside of France for some of the answers to its dilemma. The government is beholden to the country's system of social protection and has rejected red-clawed capitalism - what it calls the Anglo-Saxon model - as the way out.   

But the experience of Denmark, which has managed to create jobs while keeping its system of social security, was one possible model, the observers said.   

Villepin reportedly said he has already sketched out some ideas involving investment in research, the development of centres of excellence and competitivity and an "ambitious" industrial policy.   

Sources at the finance ministry said the government would have some freedom of action, partly through sales of some of its shares in the national communications operator France Telecom, which could bring in up to EUR 4.5 billion (USD 5.5 billion).  

The odd couple heading the government - Villepin and Chirac's arch-rival Nicolas Sarkozy - have raised some doubts about the administration's decision-making abilities.

But Villepin said that despite their difficult relations in the past, he and Sarkozy were "working together towards the same goals, in an atmosphere of confidence and unity".   Villepin was due to make his first major policy speech on Wednesday before deputies in the lower-house National Assembly.  

Francois Hollande, the leader of the opposition Socialist party, mocked the 100-days promise, saying that the government has had 1,100 days since its election to "discover that employment is the first priority."  

Hollande said he was more than willing to wait another 100 days for a solution, but warned, "if the solution is to call into cause the labour code, the socialist party will be fundamentally hostile" to it.  

Hollande told France 2 TV that the crisis in the Socialist party caused by a division over the EU referendum was over with the dismissal from leadership of the former Socialist number 2, Laurent Fabius, who led a campaign against the constitution in defiance of the party's position in favour of the treaty.  

Hollande said he planned to call a congress later this year to come up with new leadership proposals and promised that he would put his own mandate on the line in order to let party militants have their say.

© AFP

Subject: French News

 

 

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