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French govt rams long-term budget bill through parliament

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire warned that France could lose billions in EU funds if finance plans were not adopted. (AP pic)

PARIS: The French government rammed a long-term public finance bill through parliament without a vote, in a bid to secure billions of euros of EU funding.

Using the same “49:3” constitutional procedure that enabled it to adopt a disputed pension reform this spring, President Emmanuel Macron’s minority government pushed through a bill that foresees bringing the deficit down to 2.7% of GDP in 2027 from 4.9% this year.

The move allows the government to lock in its deficit and debt reduction plans out to 2027 with a binding multi-year law that will force lawmakers to work within hard spending limits when annual budget legislation is voted on.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire had warned on Monday that France risked losing out on billions of euros in EU funds if lawmakers did not adopt long-term public finance plans.

Le Maire said that in the absence of such plans, France could lose out on €10 billion (US$10.6 billion) in EU funds it is due to receive before the end of the year and a further 8 billion in 2024.

The head of the finance commission, Eric Coquerel of the far-left NUPES coalition, said on Monday that opposition lawmakers should not have to give up so much power over public finances, adding it was not a foregone conclusion that the European Commission would deny France the funds.

France has in the past rarely respected EU rules requiring member states to keep their public sector budget deficits to less than 3% of gross domestic product.