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Counter-terrorism – Stability programme – Space strategy

Published on April 18, 2012
Excerpts from the communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting

Paris, April 11, 2012

Prevention and suppression of terrorism

The Keeper of the Seals, Minister of Justice and Freedoms, put forward a bill reinforcing the prevention and suppression of terrorism.

Drawing lessons from the tragic events our country has just experienced, this text adds, on several points, to the legislative arsenal allowing us to fight terrorism.

It makes legislation against incitement to terrorist acts and the expression of support for such acts more effective, by punishing those offences not as crimes under the 1881 Freedom of the Press Act but under the penal code. It will thus be possible to apply the common law rules of procedure and prosecution, as well as some of the investigation methods of counter-terrorism.

It introduces a new offence – modelled on the offence of viewing child pornography websites – punishing any person who habitually and without legitimate cause consults websites inciting or expressing support for terrorism and displaying to this end images of acts of terrorism that endanger life.

The bill also makes it possible for any French person or any other person normally resident on French territory who travels abroad in order to engage in indoctrination in ideologies leading to terrorism – in particular by attending training camps – to be criminally prosecuted, convicted and sentenced on their return to France, without there being any need to wait for them to commit terrorist offences on French territory, as is the case at present. It will be possible to apply French criminal law in such cases, as already applied, for example, in relation to sex tourism.

Finally, the text transposes Council Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA of 28 November 2008 amending Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism, by providing that blackmail may constitute an act of terrorism when related to a terrorist undertaking, and by creating a new offence punishing those who attempt, through promises or pressure, to recruit a person into a terrorist network, even if that person does not respond to that proposal.


The stability programme

The Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry and the Minister for the Budget, Public Accounts and Administrative Reform and Government Spokesman presented France’s stability programme for 2012-2016, which will be presented to parliament.

Following its examination by the National Assembly and Senate finance committees, and in accordance with the European Semester procedure, the programme will be sent to the European Commission before the end of April.

The French economy has regained some dynamism since 2010. (…) In particular, gross domestic product (GDP) growth reached (…) 1.7% over the year. However, activity slowed down at the end of 2011 due to an unfavourable international economic situation (…) and strong tensions on the financial markets. (…)

For this stability programme, the government has decided on a growth forecast of 0.7% for 2012 and 1.75% for 2013. The growth forecast for the subsequent period, 2014-2016, is 2% a year.

The 2011 results showed the effectiveness of the measures taken, which enabled the public deficit to be reduced to 5.2% of GDP, compared to the 5.7% forecast in the previous Stability Pact. (…)
The government reiterates its determination to continue the public deficit reduction effort and have balanced public accounts by 2016. (…)
Given the good results for 2011, the government is revising the deficit forecast for 2012 to 4.4% (compared to 4.5% in the initial budget), despite a less favourable growth forecast. The deficit reduction trajectory from 2013 onwards remains unchanged: the deficit will be reduced to 3% next year, then reduced by one percentage point of GDP every year, in order to balance the public accounts by 2016.

Fulfilment of the deficit reduction trajectory between 2011 and 2016 is based on planned savings of €115 billion over the period 2011-2016, two-thirds of which relates to spending cuts. The priority being given to the control of public spending as opposed to tax increases is a necessary condition for ensuring growth is not damaged.

In addition to the impact of the measures already passed (€72 billion, €33 billion of it in revenue and €39 billion in expenditure), this plan is based on a tightening of spending norms: a €1-billion-per-year reduction in state expenditure in nominal terms (excluding debts and pensions), stability of total government spending in volume terms, and limiting the health insurance expenditure target to 2.5%.

The application of these norms, and the growing impact of the pensions reform passed, are leading to an annual rise in spending of 0.4% in volume terms – a reasonable and realistic outlook in view of the results in 2010 (+0.3%) and 2011 (0.0%). All sectors of general government will take part in the reduction in public spending: first of all the government, which bears the largest deficit, but also the local authorities and the social security system, without which it will be impossible to balance our accounts. As for additional efforts in terms of revenue, about €8 billion will be necessary to achieve the target of €40 billion.

The strategy being implemented by the government guarantees a return to balance in the public accounts. (…)

It is a strategy of fairness, because it places the bulk of the effort on the companies and households with the greatest ability to contribute.

It is also a strategy for growth, because reducing general government’s level of debt and continuing structural reforms are the essential conditions for improving our growth potential. Finally, it is the only possible strategy for maintaining our social model and sovereignty in the long term.

France’s space strategy

(…) Europe is one of the world’s four great space powers and France is the leading European space power. With the Centre national d’études spatiales [French Space Agency], she has an agency recognized for its excellence; Ariane has allowed her to gain independent access to space and she has developed observation and telecommunications industries in which she excels. (…)

For five years, the government’s policy has allowed our country’s space ambition to be strengthened: France increased her annual civil space budget, for example, by 16% between 2007 and 2012. Over this period, France initiated or significantly contributed to the launch of 25 space missions, and 46 international cooperation agreements were signed. Furthermore, the future investment programme has devoted €540 million to the space sector. This effort has enabled the consolidation of the French space industry, where the number of jobs has increased 5% since 2007.

In this context, a summary document was drawn up to reiterate the broad principles guiding France’s space policy and identify its priority avenues for the future. The policy is based on five guidelines:

- play a driving role within the “Europe of Space” composed of member states, the European Space Agency and the European Union;

- maintain independence in technology and space access by affirming the European preference principle to address Europe’s institutional requirements;

- speed up the development of high-value-added applications and services;

- conduct an ambitious industrial policy by striking a balance between competition rules and industry considerations;

- conduct balanced international cooperation projects to make the most of skills from space powers outside Europe./.

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