French Socialists call for Oettinger to resign

Commissioner Günther Oettinger [European Parliament/Flickr]

The German Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society has angered France, and the Socialist Party, by publically calling for the Commission to take a firm stance against the country’s “recurrent” budget deficit problems. EURACTIV France reports.

The Socialists have reacted strongly to an editorial by Günther Oettinger, published in Les Echos, in which the German Commissioner appealed to his colleagues in the European Commission to take a firm stance on France’s excessive budget deficit.

The European Commission is due to give its judgment on the controversial 2015 French budget on 24 November.

>> Read: France reviews its 2014 budget in an attempt to satisfy Brussels (in French)

In his editorial, the German Commissioner for the Digital Economy wrote “we would lose all credibility if we were to extend the agreed timescale for a third time without demanding compensation in a very concrete and precise way. France must commit to very clear political objectives in order to sustainably solve their economic and budgetary problems. This should not necessarily be interpreted as a decision against France, but rather as a measure taken for, and with France”.

He believes that France has to “tackle several problems: the high cost of labour and the high level of tax on salaries, rising taxes on business, the decreasing share of the world export market”.

He called upon the European Commission to stand firm. “Any extension given by the Commission on Monday should be dependent on the application of concrete and quantifiable measures, along with precise conditions. This is allowed under the Lisbon Treaty. We have to make use of it. For France and for Europe.”

Socialist Party calls for the German Commissioner’s resignation

A Socialist press release was unambiguous. “Oettinger launched into a meaningless diatribe against France, even though the Commission has already accepted the French budget, branding France a “repeat offender”, and called upon Brussels to be “rigorous” in its ruling”.

France’s governing party found the Commissioner’s statements excessive and beyond his remit, and said they constituted “a resigning matter”.

The Socialists also believes the editorial makes a mockery of “the necessary reserve of a Commissioner”. Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadélis said “this attitude plays into the hands of those, in France, who are campaigning to leave the EU. There should be sanctions”. 

France's deficit is fast becoming problem number one of the Eurozone. While many countries have tightened their belts by laying off civil servants and cutting pay, France has done neither. The country's public deficit remains very large, and the lack of economic growth diminishes the tax base.

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