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Lille mayor Martine Aubry wants to shake-up France's economy, but not government, she says

Lille's mayor Martine Aubry and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls attend an intercommunal convention at Lille-Grand Palais
Lille's mayor Martine Aubry and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls attend an intercommunal convention at Lille-Grand Palais REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Martine Aubry broke her silence this weekend after she slammed the government's economic policy for bringing the country to a "standstill." The former Labour minister, who crafted France's iconic 35-hour week, is worried that the government's leaning towards social liberalism will unravel benefits such as unemployment insurance and no work on Sunday. 

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She refuses to be labelled an "opponent," but Martine Aubry's fervent attacks on the French government's economic policy could very well put her in this category.

In a series of interviews this weekend, the former Socialist Chairman called on François Hollande to reorient his economic policy and stick to his promises of restoring growth. But critics say the President is unlikely to budge.

Aubry insists "it’s not too late to succeed, on condition we take the right path for the next two years,” she said in the French weekly Journal du Dimanche yesterday.

For the mayor of Lille, the government's obsession with austerity- like the rest of Europe - is all wrong, and what it should be doing is boosting spending and consumption.

But with unemployment at a record high and France set to exceed its deficit targets, there is little in the way of public spending.

Aubry argues that money can be found by transferring 20,000 euros from the Responsibility pact aimed at making companies more competitive. Very critical of the pact, which she claims is too favourable on business, she wants to see the creation of a consumption fund to support growth.

She was particularly scathing on government plans to reform unemployment insurance and introduce Sunday labour.

“One doesn’t reform unemployment insurance at a time when there are so many unemployed,” and says she was “profoundly shocked” that the government mentioned such things.

Analysts see her come-back as being politically motivated, although Aubry denies she has plans to seek the premiership, or run in the 2017 presidential election.

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