France

No comment on Hollande's love life at high-profile press conference

François Hollande.
François Hollande. Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

François Hollande's declined to comment on his love life at a press conference on Tuesday, saying that it was neither the time nor the place to discuss it. Thee French president preferred to oultine his plans to work with bosses to reduce unemployment and cut state spending.

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Employers' contributions to state family allowances should be scrapped by 2017, saving them 30 billion euros, Hollande announced, insisting that his "strategic partnership" with

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employers was "for the youth", aiming to improve education and bring down youth unemployment.

Pledging to reduce spending by 50 billion euros between 2015 and 2017, he promised that budget cuts will not be "blind" and "unjust" but targeted and overseen by a "strategic committee" of experts on expenditure.

They are the precondition for tax cuts, the president said.

Hollande's "responsibility pact" with the nation's employers has been welcomed by much of the media but criticised as free-market liberalism on the left.

Following the government's battle with comedian Dieudonné and the storm over racist

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insults to Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Hollande promised to be "intransigent" in fighting anti-Semitism and racism, while safeguarding freedom of expression.

The president welcomed Germany's establishment of a minimum wage in its slaughterhouses - a measure the French hope will end what they see as unfair competition with Brittany's crisis-hit food-processing industry - but said he hoped their would be an agreement to "harmonise" the two countries' tax and energy policies.

"That's what should mobilise us for the year 2014," he told the press.

Tackled on reports that he is having an affair with actress Julie Gayet, Hollande said it was "neither the place nor the moment" to comment but that he will clarify the question of whether his partner Valérie Trierweiler would accompany him on his trip to the US on 11 February.

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