French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire firmly defended France's pro-business reforms to eurozone ministers today that he said would put France back on track in Europe. In unusually candid language, and speaking in English, Le Maire said "France is back" and will be stronger in Europe thanks to tough reforms that were met with protests in Paris and other cities earlier this week. "We are taking very important decisions now in France," Le Maire told reporters as he arrived for talks with his eurozone counterparts in Tallinn, Estonia. The reforms are widely interpreted in EU circles as a condition set by powerful Germany for further integration of the eurozone, a wish of French President Emmanuel Macron. Le Maire is also rumoured as a possible successor to Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem to head the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers. "We are cutting in public spending, we are putting in reforms on the labour market which are probably the most important labour market reforms in France since a lot of years," he added. Eurogroup head Dijsselbloem welcomed the "very wise" reforms that could help to "install confidence and trust among member states". "We will follow with interest the progress in France," added Dijsselbloem, who is a close ally of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the eurozone's most influential figure. While strongly supportive of Macron's reform push, Germany still remains wary of France, which is one of the few remaining nations in the EU's bad books for spending beyond the bloc's deficit limits. "As France strengthens, so does its economic and political credibility," said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, a former French finance minister who oversees eurozone budgets. Macron's reforms, including a deep re-write of the country's labour code, are currently going though a fast- tracked parliamentary process in France. In the first major demonstrations opposed to the reforms, over 220,000 protesters marched in 180 demonstrations around France on Tuesday.
The turnout was considered lower than hoped by trade union organisers.
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