PARIS, FRANCE (NOVEMBER 16, 2012) (REUTERS) - A senior French minister on Friday (November 16) lashed out at Britain's Economist after the publication ran a front cover branding France "the-bomb at the heart of Europe".
In an interview with Europe 1 radio, Industry Minister Arnaud de Montebourg likened the economist toCharlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine that sparked an international controversy for its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
Aside from doubts over the scale of its reform efforts, many economists and EU officials are sceptical that it can hit its target of cutting its public deficit to 3 percent of output to 2013 as promised.
Failure to do so could prompt financial markets to demand higher yields for its bonds, which are currently held around record lows of two percent on the perception that France is, a long with Germany, a safe haven in the euro zone.
"Honestly I am a bit shocked because it's not the image I want to give of my country but at the same time I'm not far from sharing this opinion because I'm quite worried about the current economic situation and I don't see how the measures which are being taken at the moment will get us out of this although I don't have the answer either," Parisian Eve Cerisier said.
Six months after his election, the Socialist Hollande has seen his popularity ratings plunge as he struggles to fulfil promises to reduce France's public deficit while kick-starting a domestic economy where unemployment has risen to 17-year highs.
His government surprised some observers with ambitious moves last week to grant 20 billion euros in annual tax credits to companies as a way of lowering the high labour costs seen as holding French industry back, but many economists believe the measures are not sufficient by themselves.
In his first formal news conference since coming to power, Hollande on Tuesday defied his critics by vowing to reform at his own pace and asked French voters to judge him at the end of his mandate in 2017.
He had some good news on Thursday as data showed France's economy unexpectedly grew by 0.2 percent in the third quarter as households splashed out on clothing and other items, although the risk of recession next year is not averted.