France warns won't meet EU deficit targets as steps up security spending

GMT 14:22 2015 Tuesday ,17 November

Arab Today, arab today France warns won't meet EU deficit targets as steps up security spending

Armed police officers man a cordon around a car suspected
Paris - AFP

France warned Tuesday it won't meet its EU deficit obligations as it steps up spending on security in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

With the government planning to hire an additional 8,500 law enforcement officers, France's EU-agreed spending limits "will certainly be exceeded as these resources ... won't be taken from other budgets," Prime Minister Manuel Valls told France Inter radio.

"We have to do this and Europe should understand this," he said. "It is also time that the EU, the European Commission, understand today that this battle concerns France, and also Europe."

France has already stepped up strikes on Islamic State, which claimed the Friday attacks, bombing the group's stronghold of Raqa in northern Syria, and has asked for military support from its EU partners.

EU defence ministers quickly backed the request for military assistance and commission officials signalled leniency on budget rules.

"The rules of the stability pact do not stop member states from defining their priorities. We understand that the priority is security," EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a news conference.

The EU's stability pact obliges member states to keep their public deficits under 3.0 percent of gross domestic product.

Eurozone states with excessive deficits are subject to fines if they are not making substantial efforts to bring them back down.

France, which hasn't been able to bring its public deficit back under the three percent limit since the global financial crisis struck in 2008, had agreed with the EU to reduce the deficit to 3.8 percent of GDP this year, 3.3 percent in 2016 and 2.7 percent in 2017.

Moscovici, the former French finance minister, said the tough budgetary rules imposed by Brussels after the eurozone debt crisis were "neither rigid nor stupid, they are capable of dealing with situations.

"It is in that spirit that we are in discussions with the French government."

President Francois Hollande also announced Monday that France would hire additional law enforcement officers as it seeks to confront the increased security threat, and cancelled the elimination of 9,200 posts in the military that the country had been scheduled to make by 2019.

A government minister also called Tuesday for security screening with metal detectors at all rail stations, which would also require increased spending.

However the head of Medef, France's top business association, warned that the government shouldn't abandon efforts to find savings in public spending.

"It is without a doubt necessary to reinforce security measures" Pierre Gattaz told reporters.

"But measures to optimise public spending must absolutely continue" he said, warning the government against "flushing away" the progress made so far.


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