Luxembourg (dpa) – France faced increasing pressure Monday to live up to its European economic commitments with just days left before the country has to submit its draft 2015 budget to Brussels.
France has struggled to rev up its economy, the second largest in the European Union. There are concerns that its economic woes could complicate the recovery in the EU’s euro currency bloc.
The country is facing “peer pressure” to stick to its budget promises, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem acknowledged after chairing a meeting of eurozone finance ministers.
“At the end of the day, they will make their own budget, but in between, there is a European discussion,” Dijsselbloem said after the talks in Luxembourg.
“Yes, there was a little peer pressure from this side,” he said. “And I am of course confident that the French government will send forward a very strong and sound draft budget.”
But French authorities raised eyebrows in Brussels after indicating that they would likely need an extra two years – until 2017 – to get their deficit down to an EU-mandated level of three per cent of gross domestic product. The EU has already twice granted France more time.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin on Monday downplayed the concerns swirling around his country, saying many EU member states face economic challenges and that the list is only bound to get longer.
“The European situation is one which, if we are not careful, can become worrying,” he said. “Too low growth, too low inflation – it’s not good. It’s not good for reducing unemployment, and it’s not good for balancing budgets.”
Sapin also pointed to 21 billion euros ($27 billion) in savings that France is planning for 2015, arguing that it is unprecedented.