French President Francois Hollande yesterday said that recovery had started in France’s struggling economy, which entered a recession this year and has record-high unemployment.
“The economic recovery is here,” he said during a Bastille Day interview with top television channels, adding that industrial production had picked up and there had been a slight recovery in consumption.
He vowed to fight his nation’s “pessimism,” which he said was worse in France than in neighboring countries and even “countries at war.”
However, with France struggling to get its deficit under control, Hollande could not rule out tax increases to help balance the budget.
“We will make — we have made — savings [in spending] and I will increase taxes only if absolutely necessary, ideally as little as possible,” he said.
France’s economy entered a recession in the first quarter of this year, but is forecast to return to growth in the second quarter, with a 0.2 percent expansion.
“There is a recovery in industrial production,” Hollande said, after it increased by 1 percent in March-April.
He also repeated his promise to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of the year, after the number of jobless in France hit a record 3.26 million.
“I am fighting” for jobs, Hollande said.
“There is the will, there is a strategy, there is consistency,” he said, promising that 100,000 jobs for youth would be created by the end of the year.
He also said France would push ahead with controversial pension reforms expected in the autumn, which have already led to calls from unions for general strikes.
“Everyone will be called on to make efforts,” he said, repeating that the number of working years required to receive full pension payments will likely increase.
Hollande was grilled by journalists from two leading TV channels after attending the traditional military parade for France’s main national holiday.
Since taking power after his victory over right-winger former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in May last year, Hollande’s Socialist government has struggled to meet EU-mandated spending cuts while pushing its agenda of investing in economic growth.
In a BVA poll released on Friday, respondents said they most wanted to hear from Hollande about unemployment and economic growth, with far less interest in subjects such as immigration, security or foreign affairs.
Meanwhile, the Bastille Day military parade, down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe, drew attention to one of the few Hollande decisions that has won widespread praise.
About 60 troops from Mali and a detachment from the UN peacekeeping force led the march, joined by French troops who took part in the country’s military intervention against Islamist rebels in the west African nation earlier this year.
France’s surprise January intervention helped Mali’s weak army drive out the Islamists, who had taken over the country’s desert north. About 3,200 French troops remain in Mali, as it prepares for the first round of a presidential election on July 28.
As the parade began, Hollande was driven up the Champs Elysees standing in the back of a camouflaged military jeep, saluted by troops lining the famed avenue.
In a nod to efforts to slash government spending, defense officials said this year’s march was to be slightly less grand than in previous years. The French Ministry of Defense said this year’s parade budget was reduced by betwen10 percent and 15 percent, with a third fewer vehicles than last year and 12 percent fewer aircraft.
Even with the cuts, about 4,800 servicemen and women took part, along with 265 vehicles, 58 planes and 35 helicopters from the army, navy, air force and other branches of the military.
Among the aircraft overhead was to be the new A400M military transport plane built by Airbus, which was unveiled just last month.
Joining Hollande at the ceremony were UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore and Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, whose country became the 28th member of the EU on July 1.