Balladur promises progress and justice: Election euphoria prevails in France, despite a list of economic and social problems

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The Independent Online
EDOUARD BALLADUR, presenting the new French government's programme to parliament yesterday, said he planned reforms based on 'progress, equilibrium and justice'. He also called for a European Community-sponsored peace conference to solve conflicts resulting from the break-up of East Europe and the Soviet Union.

Making his first important policy statement since becoming Prime Minister last week, Mr Balladur, as is the custom, subjected his government to a confidence vote. With his Gaullist RPR and its centre-right allies of the Union for French Democracy (UDF) holding 484 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly after the 28 March elections, there was no suspense over the result.

He said the policy of the 'strong franc' linked to the Deutschmark, a cornerstone of the policies of Pierre Beregovoy, his Socialist predecessor, would be faithfully maintained by his government.

In foreign affairs, where Francois Mitterrand has said he will retain the President's traditional right of overseer, Mr Balladur made plain his government would keep the initiative.

In general remarks about the tone of his government, Mr Balladur made a gesture to France's immigrant communities, promising 'tolerance and respect of others'. With the government's election programme pledging to bring immigration under control, Mr Balladur's words were plainly intended to reassure legal immigrants.

Amid the euphoria at his government's election and his nomination of a broadly-based government, there has been little public discussion since the election of the critical problems facing the administration. These were highlighted last week by a rise in the number of jobless to over 3 million.

Mr Balladur proposed restoring the health of the economy in part by a programme of privatisations, one of the right's election pledges. But he did not name any of the companies.

The government's problems were underlined by the publication this week of predictions by the Senate Finance Commission that France will have a 398 billion franc ( pounds 47bn) public deficit this year, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of gross domestic product.

LYONS - The conservative mayor, Michel Noir, was charged yesterday with receiving illicit funds, becoming the latest casualty in a corruption investigation shaking France, Reuter reports.

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