New French budget minister says to stick to fiscal course

PARIS Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:01am EDT

French newly-named Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks to journalists after the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French newly-named Budget Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaks to journalists after the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris March 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's new budget minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Wednesday he would stick to his predecessor's efforts to rein in public spending, insisting there would be no policy change after the sudden resignation of his predecessor over a tax fraud probe.

Ex-Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac, a key player in France's efforts to cut its budget deficit, resigned on Tuesday evening.

His departure comes at a difficult time, as Paris is negotiating a reprieve on its EU deficit target and redrafting its fiscal-tightening plans.

"I will assure policy continuity," Cazeneuve, the government's former Europe Minister, told LCI television.

"There can be no growth without discipline in public accounts. There can be no growth if we do not rein in our deficits and debts, and the role of the budget minister is to handle these budgetary efforts towards growth."

Weaker-than-expected growth forced the government last month to abandon its pledge to cut the public deficit to an EU-imposed ceiling of 3 percent of economic output this year and to seek EU blessing to push the target back to 2014.

The government is also preparing a review for next month of its budget plans and Cahuzac had been tasked with ensuring that ministries find an additional 5 billion euros in spending cuts for next year's budget.

An EU official said the nomination of a new budget minister would not have much effect on talks on the deficit target, with Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici the main point of contact for EU economic affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

"I don't expect this to have any significant impact in our dealings with Paris," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The yield on the French 10-year benchmark bond was largely unchanged after Cahuzac's resignation at a fraction above 2 percent.

(Reporting by Nick Vinocur in Paris, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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