PARIS Nov 13 French President Francois Hollande defended his record on economic reform and called for more aid for Greece on Tuesday, in a news conference to mark his first six months in office.
Following are highlights of his comments:
ON EURO ZONE, RELATIONS WITH GERMANY:
"I am for a multi-speed Europe. I am in favour of the euro zone developing its own structures... perhaps with its own budget, its own energy policy...
"We have to move forward. The status quo would be the worst thing for Europe today."
"The reality is that the chancellor (Angela Merkel) and I have a common responsibility to move Europe forward. That's the role history has assigned us, also due to the size of the economies we represent.
"Nothing should be done to weaken that relationship, so that beyond our differences -- and I can confirm that there are some -- we can find a compromise each time in the interest of Europe and of our two countries.
"We speak to each other frankly, the chancellor and I, but we don't teach each other lessons because Franco-German relations aren't based on lessons, except perhaps on the lessons of history.
"We in France more than others have to prove our seriousness and our competitiveness, more than Germany, and that's what we are doing. And Germany... has to prove its solidarity, which is not easy when a country has made such an effort to become what it is today."
ON DEFICIT REDUCTION:
"Among Europeans, we should ask ourselves the question: what should be the pace (of deficit reduction). There again, I am not going to take a risk for France. I'm not going to say that because the 3 percent target is difficult, it doesn't matter if we get attacked on the markets. Some people would love to see that happen."
"We are going to have a continuous increase in unemployment for a year. That will be hard on families, on companies... we'll do everything so that at the end of the year 2013 we can turn the unemployment curve around."
ON LABOUR MARKET REFORM:
"I call on all the trade unions and employers to negotiate and conclude an historic compromise (on reform of labour contracts). Otherwise the government will take the decision. But rather than legislate (alone), I would prefer the government to turn this historic agreement into law."
ON PLANNED BANK REFORM:
"We need banks that are at the service of companies, of the economy, of housing."
"This reform... will separate deposit and lending activities, which the French people know well and find reassuring, from those activities connected with speculation, which scare them. It will also outlaw toxic (financial) products and will bring order to remuneration schemes such as bonuses."
ON HIS POLICY, PUBLIC OPINION AND FINANCIAL MARKETS:
"Decline is not our destiny."
"An election changes those in power but it doesn't change reality. What is this situation? It is serious."
"I can understand the doubts that have been expressed. The only valid question in my eyes is not the state of public opinion today but the state of France in five years' time."
"Over the last six months, I've made my decisions and I stick to them without having to make any kind of U-turn or backtracking, because these decisions are in line with my (campaign) commitments, with my principles and above all with the interests of France."
"Our credibility (in financial markets) is assured today. The interest rates on our public debt are the lowest in our history."
"The Greek parliament has just adopted a very tough plan. Greece expects in return the support of Europe and of the International Monetary Fund. It was promised this support, and I believe that beyond finalising any technical modalities, it is entitled to this support, to put an end to what may have been a doubt about the integrity of the euro zone."