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May 28, 2017

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Hollande urges compromise to boost economy

PARIS--President Francois Hollande urged France to adopt a culture of compromise as he addressed unions and employers on Monday amid efforts to kick start the country's recession-threatened economy.

In a country famed for labor strikes that can paralyze swathes of the economy, Hollande proposed a model similar to that in neighboring Germany where "social dialogue" can head off damaging disputes.

"France has not developed a culture of negotiation," Hollande said, as he opened a two-day "social conference" in Paris saying the most efficient economies are "those able to forge lasting compromises."

He said France needs to "make our social model evolve to better guarantee" the country's financial security, adding that controlling public finances and reducing the debt were a question of France's "future sovereignty."

He proposed giving social dialogue more prominence in the debate over the country's economy and even to "inscribe its role in the constitution."

"The moment has come to put France in motion, there is no time to lose," Hollande told about 300 people gathered for the conference.

He said the country was facing "three great challenges," namely: controlling public finances, increasing competitiveness and tackling rising unemployment.

Government officials earlier met with the heads of France's five top unions and its three employer organizations for talks on how to relaunch France's troubled economy, which some fear is headed for a recession.

The Bank of France on Monday confirmed an estimate that the economy will shrink by 0.1 percent in the second quarter — the first quarter of negative growth since France emerged from recession in the spring of 2009.

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