* French finmin defends choices in tough 2013 budget
* Says 2013 GDP target "ambitious, but realistic"
PARIS, Sept 29 French Finance Minister Pierre
Moscovici said on Saturday cutting the public deficit to three
percent of economic output next year was a realistic goal and
France must set its own course to reaching it to preserve its
The Socialist government unveiled a tough 2013 budget on
Friday that slaps higher levies on business and a 75-percent tax
on the super-rich but does not reduce public spending, to the
dismay of pro-reform lobbyists.
Moscovici defended the approach in an interview with Le
Monde newspaper, arguing that harsher austerity measures being
imposed in Spain, Greece and Italy were not appropriate for
France and would undermine its independence.
"Other countries succumbed to budgetary carelessness and
ended up in the hands of the market, hands and feet chained," he
said. "They fell into recession and their unemployment rates
have worsened in a climate of widespread social tension."
"That's why the 3-percent target - a condition for
debt-clearing and returning to growth - is neither biased nor
out of reach. France can and must achieve it."
With record unemployment and a barrage of data pointing to
economic stagnation, economists have highlighted a risk of
missing the target if France were to fall short of a modest 0.8
percent forecast for growth next year.
Moscovici called the growth target "ambitious, but
realistic", and said the government should be judged on the
result of its economic policies, not their method.
"I accept Europe's demands, I respect France's commitments,
but I refuse to have outsiders put their fingers into the French
welfare system. It needs to be reformed, not broken," he said.
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Central Bank
governor Mario Draghi maintain pressure on euro zone states to
pursue structural reforms, Moscovici pointed to overhauls of
labour and welfare planned for next year.
However, the 55-year-old poured cold water on Merkel's calls
for a new European treaty to deepen integration in the bloc,
saying it was "not a current question" - despite another public
official hinting at openness to the idea.
On a planned merger between European aerospace group EADS
and British defence contractor BAE Systems Plc
, Moscovici said a variety of "complex" concerns still
needed to be addressed.
"France has a particular stake on this issue, that of a
state that is both sovereign and stakeholder, and wants to
remain so," he said.