French premier outlines reform plans to parliament


French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday released new government plans in a key policy speech to parliament.

Just a day after President Emmanuel Macron's address to assembled lawmakers from both houses of parliament, Philippe said France must "restore its confidence".

The premier promised a pack of measures to crack down on high public spending and tax loopholes, as well as improving social security coverage and reforming the health and education sectors.

He also presented reforms for military, security and judicial institutions.

Most of these reform bills will be approved and implemented by 2018, others by 2021.

As for the state of emergency, Philippe confirmed Macron's revelation on Monday that France would end the measure, but implement new security policies. The state of emergency is scheduled to end Nov. 1 "at the latest".

Philippe said although "there will be other attacks", ending the state of emergency was necessary. He described it as "an act of courage which we, the French people, must collectively demonstrate".

Philippe said the government will launch a €50 billion ($57 billion) investment plan to include health, transport and agriculture.

He also said French debt had reached an "unbearable level", with the country being the only Eurozone member with a trade deficit.

"Businesses must want to set up and develop on our territory, rather than elsewhere," he insisted.

Philippe also reiterated the government's ambition of bringing the deficit within an EU limit of 3 percent of GDP this year.

Speaking about Europe, Philippe said he wants to first "reconcile the French people with the European Union" then start "working for a Europe that protects, a better-governed eurozone and a defense policy".

As for Brexit, Philippe said: "Conducting orderly negotiations...will be a pre-requisite for the future relationship's framework."

The French premier also said his government will announce measures next week on refugees, illegal immigration and reforms to the asylum system.

This reform plan will, in particular, aim to reduce the average time to assess asylum applications "from 14 to 6 months," he added.

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