Hollande promises cash injection for France's crisis-hit countryside
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French President François Hollande announced a new injection of cash into France's crisis-hit rural areas at a special meeting with Prime Minister Manuel Valls and nine ministers in eastern France on Monday. He was greeted by protesting trade unionists and farmers squeezed by falling milk prices.
Half of a one-billion-euro fund for local authorites will be earmarked for rural areas, Hollande said after the meeting on Monday aftternoon.
The money will be invested in revitalising towns and villages with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants and will be accompanied by 21 measures to bring services to the increasingly deserted French countryside.
Young doctors will be encouraged to work in rural areas and general practitioners will be given emergency training so that no-one lives more than 30 minutes from some form of emergency services by 2017, Hollande promised.
Three billion euros is to be invested in ensuring that the whole country has high-speed internet connections.
And there will be investment in transport, including efforts to stop service stations in out-of-the-way places closing and charging points for electric cars every 50 kilometres.
Hollande and Valls met one group of farming trade unionists, who called for help to keep milk farmers' heads above water as prices fall.Others joined industrial unionists in a protest at government economic and labour policy, pouring milk onto the road as the presidential convoy passed.
France faces regional elections in three months time and the Socialists are anxious to win back some of the votes they lost to the right and far right in other elections earlier this year.