France's future hangs in balance in 2012: Sarkozy

31st December 2011, Comments 0 comments

France's future will hang in the balance in 2012, President Nicolas Sarkozy warned on Saturday, four months before he faces a tough battle for re-election.

With the economy and eurozone debt crisis set to take centre stage in the vote and recent figures showing unemployment at a 12-year high, Sarkozy promised "important decisions" in January to tackle joblessness.

And with Socialist challenger Francois Hollande leading in the polls, Sarkozy vowed that financial markets and credit ratings agencies would not be the ones deciding French policy.

"France's destiny could once again be tipped" in 2012, Sarkozy said in the the last televised New Year's address of his first term.

"Emerging from the crisis, building a new model for growth, giving birth to a new Europe -- these are some of the challenges that await us."

"This crisis... probably the most serious since World War II, this crisis is not over," Sarkozy said.

"Yet there are reasons for hope... We must, we can keep confidence in the future," he said.

"What is happening in the world announces that 2012 will be a year full of risks but also full of possibilities. Full of hope, if we know how to face the challenges. Full of dangers, if we stand still," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy's re-election hopes were hit this week when new figures showed unemployment at a 12-year high, with the number of registered jobseekers in France rising by 29,900 in November to reach 2.84 million.

Sarkozy, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy in February, called a summit of unions and business chiefs on January 18 in a bid to tackle unemployment.

"Before the end of January we will take important decisions, because the stakes are high," he said.

Touching on fears that France could lose its cherished triple-A credit rating, Sarkozy said: "I do not underestimate the consequences that the ratings agencies and runaway markets can have on our economy... but I say this for everyone to hear -- neither the markets nor the agencies will decide French policies."

Sarkozy also excluded that France would impose a new austerity package on government finances, following the announcement of two deficit-cutting programmes since August.

"The problem is not one of a new package of spending cuts in the coming year. The government has done what needed to be done," he said.

Keen to maintain its triple-A rating, the French government in November announced 65 billion euros ($84 billion) in savings by 2016, on top of a 12-billion-euro deficit-cutting package announced in August.

The government has said it needs to make 100 billion euros in savings to balance the budget by 2016.

France will vote in the first round of the presidential election in April and potentially a second round in May, followed by parliamentary elections in June.

© 2011 AFP

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