Barnier backs more ambitious pensions reform in France, green tax

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In an interview with EurActiv.fr, the EU's internal market commissioner expresses his desire for an even more ambitious pension reform than the one presented by Paris last week and for an "energy-climate" charge that does not raise citizens' tax burden.

Michel Barnier encouraged the French opposition to show support for the Socialist government’s pension reform proposal, if it were to become law after the parliamentary debates this autumn.

For now, the centre-right commissioner finds the project “incomplete and insufficient, as earlier reforms” proposed by the previous Conservative governments.

Last week the French government proposed a draft law to reform the French pension system that ran contrary to the European Commission’s suggestions to lower the cost of labour.

The commissioner added that Brussels had made similar recommendations this year, and that the current French proposal was focused on raising the contributions, rather than a transformation of the system.

According to Barnier, the current level of taxation "has reached the maximum bearable” and he was worried that entrepreneurs, investors and young people might leave the country.

“If this trend goes on, we will have to draw lessons”, he warned.

However, Barnier said he would support “green taxation” as proposed by the government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. Greening taxation would be a good thing as long as the tax burden remained stable, he said. The European Commission has already encouraged Paris to tax pollution rather than labour, he added.

Ahead of the European elections in 2014, the commissioner believes that all voices should be heard: “Everybody has something to say about Europe! Good ideas can be found everywhere, at the far left, at the centre-right, the Greens, we also have to hear what the far-right has to say”.

Timeline: 
  • 22 Sept. 2013: Federal elections in Germany
  • 24-25 Oct. 2013: European Summit on the social consequences of the single currency
  • 19-20 Dec. 2013: European summit on strenghtening the budgetary integration in the eurozone et defence policy
  • 25 May 2014: European elections in France
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