France resists EU call to rein in deficit spending

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France has thrown cold water on European calls for fiscal restraint, with the budget minister saying it would be "very difficult" to bring the deficit under control by 2013.

PARIS - The European Commission is to order France this week to bring its bloated public deficit -- set to reach 8.5 percent of GDP in 2010 -- back to within three percent of gross domestic product by 2013.

"Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said that we will be at three percent in 2014," budget minister Eric Woerth told Europe 1 radio. "It will be very difficult" to reach this goal in 2013, he added.

Under European Union regulations, member states are bound to hold their annual public deficits to three percent of output.

Woerth said France was already making a "considerable" effort to pull its public finances out of the red, starting in 2011 when a forecast reduction of the deficit to seven percent of DGP, six in 2012 and five in 2013.

The forecast is based on expectations of "more growth" starting in 2011, said Woerth.

Fillon said on Monday that he expected growth of 1.5 percent in 2010, double the figure used in the government's budget bill.

"France is taking off quicker than expected", Fillon said.

On Wednesday, the European Commission is to formally give four EU states, including France, one-year extensions to 2013 on the deadline to bring their deficits in line with EU rules because of a deterioration in their economies.

Britain is to be given until 2015 to fix its annual budget, with Ireland allowed until 2014. Spain and Germany will be given until 2013 to comply.


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