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France will respect financial commitments - economy minister

[PARIS] France will keep its financial commitments, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said, after Paris announced that increased security spending in light of the deadly Nov 13 attacks would likely break European Union budget rules.

In a speech last Monday, President Francois Hollande pledged to create 5,000 jobs in the security forces and avoid defence spending cuts until 2019, saying "the security pact prevails over the stability pact," referring to eurozone budget limits. "We are talking about a very small gap," Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told reporters. "France will keep its financial engagements, I hope so, because is our responsibility at the heart of Europe and the eurozone." French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Nov 17 that France was bound to overshoot its EU budget deficit target of 3 per cent of GDP as it boosted security spending.

But even before the Paris attacks France was heading for budget deficits above EU targets. On Oct 15 France submitted a draft budget plan for 2016 in which it ignored EU finance ministers' recommendations on structural deficit cuts.

Economy Minister Macron was speaking at the Place de la Republique, where he and his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel lit a candle and held a minute's silence for the 130 victims of the worst atrocity in France since World War Two. "Exceptional circumstances have justified making exceptional decisions," Mr Macron said. "They have been presented to the European Commission. I don't think it's likely to change anything."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said France's security spending should get special treatment under EU deficit rules.

EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici echoed this position when he told France Inter radio in an interview aired on Saturday: "Let's not be heartless and soulless accountants." Speaking of Mr Gabriel's visit, Macron also said: "We will be making concrete proposals, continue working to have a Franco-German initiative in response to what has happened,""All of Europe is facing jihadi aggressions and it is all of Europe that needs to fight and react."