French minister presses Germany for more time on deficit

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici urged Germany Thursday to "understand" that Paris needed time to cut its excessive public deficit as it strives to jumpstart economic growth and curb rising unemployment.

If France forced itself to trim the deficit to below an EU limit of 3.0 percent of output this year, as it had pledged to do, "we would put the country in recession," Moscovici told a press conference held in Strasbourg, eastern France, alongside his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble.

"That would mean that many more unemployed youths, more unemployment," the French minister explained.

French President Francois Hollande has promised to reverse the rising trend in unemployment by the end of this year, and has pushed European partners repeatedly to put more of an emphasis on growth measures and focus less on strict budget discipline as Germany and some northern neighbours have done.

Moscovici said later during a joint interview with the Franco-German television channel Arte that he had told Schaeuble: "You have to understand that France has a structural reform programme, a serious one, and is on the path towards becoming more competitive, you have to be understanding of that."

The German finance minister, who has presented a draft 2014 budget for Europe's biggest economy that contains the lowest deficit in 40 years, said it was time to "do away with the debate between austerity and growth" which he termed "silly," but nonetheless insisted that "a solid financial policy is a condition for sustainable growth."

"Telling populations that one way to resolve unemployment is by accumulating deficits, is for us the wrong path," Schaeuble said.