France's Moscovici vows to uphold EU budget rules

2nd October 2014, Comments 0 comments

France's Pierre Moscovici, nominated to be the EU's next economic affairs commissioner, vowed on Thursday to uphold budget rules as he went before lawmakers wary of his track record of overspending as his country's finance minister.

Moscovici faced harsh quizzing in his confirmation hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels, a day after his successor in Paris announced that France will break EU deficit rules until 2017.

"I am French and proud to be so," Moscovici said after one of a series of tough questions from lawmakers on his track record as minister.

"As commissioner, I will defend the rules, all the rules and as with all rules there is the past and the future," he said.

"And for the future, my compass will be simple: rules and only the rules, all of them."

He also insisted that all countries, "including France", whether big or small would be treated in the same way and "under the same rules".

Moscovici, who was in charge of public finances in Paris until only last April, is seeking to take over the job from the financially orthodox Olli Rehn, the determined defender of tight budgets and tough reforms who enjoyed the firm backing of Berlin.

The choice of Moscovici by incoming commission chief Jean-Claude Junker to head the Economic Affairs Commission last month was almost immediately met with harsh criticsm, especially by Germany.

Moscovici said that as minister for two years he cut deficits in France, even though French public over-spending stayed significantly above the EU limit of three percent of gross domestic product.

"When I arrived, the deficit was headed towards 5.5 percent, and in my last budget as minister, it was down to 4.1 percent," he said.

European conservatives are up in arms that a Socialist with such a track record could take the reins of the critical post, especially with the European economy mired in the doldrums and in need of solutions.

Before the hearing, French European MP Alain Lamassoure said that Moscovici would "suffer badly" in the job, "because to gain credibility he will have to show particular severity with his country of origin."

© 2014 AFP

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