Stockholm School of Economics
“France, Europe: Separating facts from fiction”
Monday 25 March 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for inviting me to talk about reform efforts in France, which in fact are directly connected with this official visit to Sweden. This is not a mere courtesy call, but rather a serious visit that is very much a part of our reform initiatives, and one of the most important reforms in particular: reform of the government itself. On this trip, I am accompanied by a delegation that includes ministers, MPs and government representatives. We are here to discuss reforms that Sweden has carried out over the past two decades, and to benefit from your experience as we implement our own reforms.
France is the second largest economic power in Europe, and the fifth largest in the world, two positions we have every intention of retaining.
Government reform is only one of the large-scale structural reforms that we have pursued since the elections nearly one year ago. I will mention others today as well, which may run counter to certain shared ideas. Sometimes, it is difficult to perceive change from a distance. And yet, France is changing – in a moment, I will explain how. But first, let me say a word about the general direction our efforts are taking. France is the second largest economic power in Europe, and the fifth largest in the world, two positions we have every intention of retaining. This goal is within our reach, if we can successfully complete reforms that the country has postponed for so long. It is the responsibility of the current government to do so, and it is exactly what we are doing.
There are four cornerstones to our economic policy: first, setting our budgetary house in order; our public accounts have been in disarray for more than thirty years and are jeopardising our future. Next is restoring the competitiveness of the French economy, which has suffered badly over the past decade, and I will share with you the solutions we have chosen. Third, we are implementing major structural reforms, which are also critical for restoring France’s long-term competitiveness. I am referring in particular to labour market reforms, but we are carrying out others as well. The final cornerstone involves stabilising the euro area and fostering its recovery – an area to which I am devoting a large part of my time. All in all, we are pressing ahead very determinedly with our reforms, even though the context in Europe, marked by a significant economic downturn and fiscal consolidation efforts in many countries – is much less favourable today.
When I left office in 2002, France enjoyed a trade surplus; currently it has a trade deficit of more than €70 billion.