AMBOISE, France (Reuters) - President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday France could overcome its debt crisis as long as it was prepared to pull together to adopt economic reforms, two days after the country lost its prized triple-A credit rating.
Sarkozy said he would announce reforms at the end of the month and that he intends to implement them rapidly following talks with union leaders and employers this coming week.
“I will tell them (the French people) the important decisions that we need to take without losing any time,” he said in a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Michel Debre, father of the constitution of France’s Fifth Republic.
“The crisis can be overcome provided we have the collective will and the strength to reform our country.”
Three months away from a presidential election, Sarkozy has turned his focus to growth, vowing to overhaul welfare financing, company labor charges and job flexibility, with plans for a so-called “Social VAT” to fund welfare and a tax on financial transactions.
The president is due to meet union leaders and employers for talks on Wednesday.
Sarkozy did not directly address the decision by Standard & Poor’s to cut France’s top-notch rating during the speech, despite criticism this weekend from opposition Socialist politicians who said it was his policies that had been downgraded, not France.
Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou; Writing by James Regan; Editing by Matthew Jones