Employment, security France’s priorities in 2016: Hollande

Paris, Jan 5 (IANS) Creating more jobs, fighting terrorism and maintaining security at home are the French government’s priorities this year, President Francois Hollande has said.

In a New Year message to his executive staff, Hollande said on Monday that the government’s first priority was employment, Xinhua reported.

“In 2015, we saw the first signs of growth recovery at 1.1 percent, the best figure since 2011, but the pace is obviously insufficient to reduce unemployment,” Hollande said.

Weak oil prices, low interest rates would be “encouraging factors” to lower the unemployment rate currently at 10.2 percent, the highest jobless rate since 1997.

To achieve the goal, Hollande unveiled “a major reform” that would help to simplify the labour code, reinforce collective negotiation and to establish a private business account that would give new rights to workers throughout their professional life.

In a move to appease angry voters on broken promises to reduce unemployment, the Socialist leader also pledged to pour more money to improve training for 500,000 jobseekers.

When shifting to security issues, Hollande said “due to the seriousness of the threat”, “protecting the French” was also this year’s main objective.

“We also need to maintain a high level of vigilance to protect many places… schools and religious sites,” he added, arguing that terrorism risks remain high in the country where terrorists killed 130 people in November.

Earlier in 2015, gunmen claiming links with the Islamic State attacked a satirical magazine and a Jewish shop, leaving 17 victims.

Facing a continued terror alert, the state of emergency would remain as long as necessary, according to Hollande. But it “can not be a permanent measure” to protect nationals, he added.

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