Paris - France's newly reshuffled government will pursue its deficit-cutting objectives but it will seek a review of the deadlines with the European Union, new Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Thursday.
His comments, three days after President Francois Hollande hinted that France would seek clemency on its public finances, was the clearest signal yet that France may not bring its deficit under three percent of output in 2015 as promised.
“The goals, these are goals we will stick to, that is part of the overall line ... It is the path, the timing itself which will be discussed, with common interests in mind - this is not about France begging on its knees,” he told France Inter radio.
“It is in Europe's interest to find the right timing ... “Europe will be better off when France is better off,” he said, adding that there was a “thin line” between the budgetary rigour needed to bring public finances into line and an excess of austerity that would choke economic recovery.
France has already won two years' grace to meet the three percent target. It must by the end of the month send the European Commission its so-called stability programme of fiscal plans setting out how it plans to bring its deficit within that target.
The European Commission already warned France last month that it will miss its targets and EU officials again called on it to respect its promises after Hollande's comments earlier this week.
Concern was compounded as official figures released on Monday showed the French deficit strayed off target again last year, reaching 4.3 percent of GDP instead of the planned 4.1 percent.