New French cabinet takes pay cut

Newly elected president orders 30 per cent pay cut for his ministers amid calls to renegotiate EU fiscal pact.

    France's new left-leaning government will take a 30 per cent pay cut in order to "lead by example", a statement on ministers' code of ethics has revealed.

    The 34 ministers, the country's first government led by a Socialist in 17 years, have also been urged to shun free holidays, reject expensive gifts and cut personal travel expenses.

    They should use trains rather than planes, where a trip was no longer than three hours, drive carefully - scrupulously respecting the rules of the road - and declare financial interests for publication, said the new code.

    Any gift worth more than 150 euros will also have to be surrendered, in what many are seeing as a way to distance the new leaders from the administration of former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, known for his often glitzy style.

    The details of the ethics code came to light, as the cabinet held its first meeting with President Francois Hollande.

    Meanwhile, Pierre Moscovici, the country's new finance minister, has said that France would not ratify the European Union's pact on fiscal discipline - unless it were amended to include ambitious commitments to promote economic growth.

    "What we've said is the treaty will not be ratified as it stands," Moscovici told France's BFM TV, after taking over from his conservative predecessor, Francois Baroin, on Thursday.

    "We're firm on this."

    The new French team was committed to serious management of public finances but also wanted a strong pro-growth strategy in Europe, he said.

    Laurent Fabius, who takes over from Alain Juppe as foreign minister, also emphasised France's need for economic growth.

    "Something that we, the French, totally agree with is the idea of budgetary firmness, but we point out that one needs two legs to be able to walk," he said.

    "There is one leg for the budgetary strictness, and and there is one leg for growth. For the moment the budgetary firmness is here, present in certain texts, but the leg for growth is not there."

    US reception

    Analysts say this two-fold policy is likely to be well-greeted by US President Barack Obama's administration in Washington, where the French President is in town for the G8 and NATO summits.

     Hollande vows to work with Germany's Merkel

    "Mr Hollande's greater approach to growth, economic growth, is certainly something that the Obama administration has been encouraging in Europe - not to simply go down the austerity path, but to have to do both fiscal consolidation and stimulate growth at the same time," Helen Conley, a former US diplomat, told Al Jazeera.

    Moscovici, who was a junior European affairs minister in the left-wing government of 1997-2002, said: "With the United States, we have the same desire to rekindle global economic growth, because everything else becomes more difficult without growth,"

    President Hollande has long made his position clear on a pact that his predecessor, Sarkozy, signed with other European leaders in March.

    Hollande discussed the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in person within hours of his swearing-in this week, Moscovici said.

    "It [the pact] must be fleshed out with a part on economic growth, and when I say that, we're talking about an ambitious growth strategy," Moscovici said.

    "What we are saying - and we are all very pro-European, Francois Hollande is very European, [prime minister] Jean-Marc Ayrault is very European and I am very European - is that we must take the construction of Europe in a new direction, not to shrug off budgetary responsibility ... for us budgetary responsibility and economic growth are not opposites."

    Strategies reportedly discussed by Hollande and Merkel include greater use of European structural development funds and funding by the European Investment Bank, but also so-called project bonds, pooled European debt finance for growth-promoting projects.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera, agencies


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