French mayor hunger strikes for government aid

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 10, 2012 2:14 PM

PARIS (Reuters) - The mayor of a poor town near Paris has pitched a tent outside parliament and gone on hunger strike to demand emergency funds from France's cash-strapped government, arguing that economic crisis is pushing dozens of towns like his near to ruin.

Mayor Stephane Gatignon, whose high-profile protest started on Friday, says the global financial crisis is strangling his town, Sevran, and that he needs five million euros ($6.4 million) by Tuesday to pay municipal bills.

"In concrete terms, we've reached the end of the road. We have no more access to loans," said Gatignon, a member of the Greens party whose town is just a short train commute north of the world's most visited tourist capital.

He says he needs the extra funds to pay firms for public works, and more broadly argues that the government must grant larger aid to the 100 poorest towns in France, where unemployment is often well above the national average.

Government Minister Marylise Lebranchu said that government aid for such cases was set to rise under local funding packages due to be put to a vote in parliament on Tuesday, though she did not commit to meet Gatignon's additional demand.

Nearly three years into a debt market crisis in Europe, France's Socialist government is struggling to slash its public-sector deficit to three percent of gross domestic product next year, from 4.5 percent this year.

While President Francois Hollande promised to do so without subjecting French voters to Greek-style austerity, his 2013 budget seeks to raise 20 billion euros in tax rises and 10 billion more in spending cuts - the biggest budget squeeze in more than half a century.

($1 = 0.7868 euros)

(Reporting by Brian Love; Editing by Stephen Powell)