Deficit-reduction measures carried out since the 2008 financial
crisis have crippled Europe's economies and governments need to
change course swiftly or they will lose their voters to populist and
extremist parties, Montebourg told a socialists' meeting in eastern
"France is the euro zone's second-biggest economy, the world's
fifth-greatest power, and it does not intend to align itself, ladies
and gentlemen, with the excessive obsessions of Germany's
conservatives," Montebourg said.
"That is why the time has come for France and its government, in the
name of the European Union's survival, to put up a just and sane
resistance [to these policies]."
Montebourg said consensus was growing among economists and
politicians worldwide on the need for growth-oriented policies and
mentioned his German socialist counterpart Sigmar Gabriel and
Italy's premier Matteo Renzi as potential allies.
He cited former president Charles de Gaulle and former British prime
minister Margaret Thatcher as having effectively spoken up to change
the course of EU policies they opposed.
Montebourg said he had personally asked President Francois Hollande
for "a major re-direction of our economic policy". The government
should now focus less on cutting debt than on supporting households
to revive consumption, a traditional economic driver, he said.
Montebourg, who makes no secret of his own presidential ambitions,
is known for his frequent attacks on austerity, but his latest
comments are likely to embarrass Hollande, who despite mounting
pressure said just days earlier he would not back away from his
policy based on spending cuts and corporate tax breaks.
Hollande's business-minded policies have alienated many left-wing
lawmakers and voters already frustrated with his failed pledge to
curb unemployment. He is now the most unpopular president in over
half a century, with an approval score of 17 percent in the latest
Hollande's office declined to comment on what Montebourg said. A
source close to Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Montebourg had gone
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"Firstly, there are declarations on economic policy and secondly,
statements on our European partner Germany that are extremely harsh.
Therefore, considering the line has been crossed, the prime minister
has decided to act," the source said, giving no further details.
In an interview published on Saturday, Montebourg had already warned
the austerity measures pursued by France and its European peers were
Six years after the collapse of banking group Lehman Brothers and
the start of the global economic crisis, the United States and
Britain have returned to growth while euro zone economies are still
shrinking or stagnating, he noted on Sunday.
"There is a disease specific to the euro zone, a serious disease,
persistent and dangerous," Montebourg said, arguing that fiscal and
monetary austerity would not help end the crisis but had only
worsened and extended it.
"The time has come for us to take on an alternative leadership, to
set up an alternative motor and promote ideas and practices
alternative to this destructive ideology," he said.
(Reporting by Natalie Huet, additional reporting by Julien Ponthus,
editing by David Evans)
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