New French government takes pay cut , fights for growth in Europe

By Tony Cross

France’s new, Socialist government held its first meeting Thursday with a pay cut for the president and ministers the first item on the agenda. Ministers insisted that their top policy priority is Europe’s debt crisis.

Minsters were due to vote themselves a 30 per cent pay cut at Thursday’s meeting. And new President François Hollande will see his salary reduced, too, unlike his right-wing predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who awarded himself a 170 per cent raise to 19,000 euros a month when he took office in 2007.

The move, described by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault as “setting an example”, is also a contrast to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who took a 30 per cent pay rise on Wednesday.

Ministers said that they would press on with the push for growth-friendly policies in Europe, despite Merkel’s insistence that the eurozone should stick to austerity when she met Hollande just after he was sworn in Tuesday.

“The priority is to disentangle the crisis in Europe,” Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius told news channel BFM TV.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici repeated Hollande’s commitment not to ratify the EU’s fiscal pact if it has no proposals to boost growth.

“"What has been said quite clearly is that the treaty will not be ratified as is and that it must be completed with a chapter on growth, with a growth strategy," he said.

After losing the presidential election, the right is hitting back in preparation for next month’s parliamentary election.

Despite they pay cut, the Hollande government will cost 45,000 euros more than the first government of previous prime minister François Fillon, former training minister Nadine Morano tweeted Thursday, although fellow tweeters claimed that the second Fillon government cost substantially more.

And right-wing MP Jean-Paul Garaud asserted that the new cabinet’s make-up would help the far-right Front National (FN), specifically targeting the nomination of Guyanese MP Christiane Taubira, who sponsored a bill condemning the legacy of slavery, as justice minister.

Last week Garaud controversially called for the mainstream right UMP to get closer to the FN after Marine Le Pen’s success in the presidential election, later saying that he did not mean to propose an alliance with the far-right party.