ECB's Galhau: France must keep up reforms

PARIS (Reuters) - France must keep up reforms to boost growth and fight rampant unemployment, central banker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Wednesday, days before President Francois Hollande unveils fresh economic plans.

Hollande’s conversion to business-friendly economic reforms in 2014 is seen at risk of running out of steam as the unpopular French leader seeks to soothe left-wing voters ahead of elections next year.

“Growth depends first and foremost on ourselves and the reforms we will carry out,” Bank of France governor Villeroy de Galhau told Europe 1 radio. “Victory against unemployment will not come from a series of sprints and stops, it’s a long-distance race that requires a lot of continuity and team spirit.”

Villeroy de Galhau, who is also European Central Bank Governing Council member, urged the government to do more to boost apprenticeship, cut red tape for the jobs market and ease up talks between labor unions and employers.

While analysts think Hollande will press on with reforms of France’s strict labor laws - which make it difficult for companies to dismiss permanent staff and could act as a brake on a weak economic recovery - they say the proposed overhaul could be watered down, and the pace of change slow.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Yann Le Guernigou; Editing by Andrew Callus