Mr de Villepin said he would suspend planned tax cuts
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told MPs on Wednesday that he would "get France going again".
In his first policy speech, Mr de Villepin pledged to combat unemployment without endangering France's social model, and said the country remained at the heart of Europe despite the voters' rejection of the EU constitution.
The following are excerpts from his address, broadcast live on French television.
I'm standing before you at a very particular time of the history of our country, at a time when the French people are expressing their suffering, their impatience, their anger.
With you, representatives of the nation, I want to set points of reference, show the way, get France going again.
Let us not interpret this vote as a sign of French isolation
With you and with the whole government, throughout the coming months, I will devote my energy and my will to this huge task which was entrusted to me by the president.
A few days ago, the people of France voted "no" to the draft European constitution. It is my conviction that this vote was not the expression of one France against another.
All of our country remains committed to the European project. It knows that its destiny will be decided from now on at the continental level.
Let us not interpret this vote as a sign of French isolation. Some member states found in the draft treaty a sufficient response to their expectations. Others did not.
Frenchmen and Frenchwomen are asking questions. They want to remain faithful to their identity, anxious to maintain a balance between solidarity and liberty.
They want to combine the defence of our nation's interests and those of Europe, the promotion of our social model and the European project.
They defend a particular vision of humanity, with its rights and duties, and reject the sole validity of the logic of the market and globalisation.
The French know it and say so forcefully: globalisation is not an ideal; it cannot be our destiny.
They expect us to affirm our values.
The truth is that we are confronted with a difficult situation.
At a time when the world is experiencing unprecedented change, Europe is becoming divided, while France is slow to adapt.
The truth is that unemployment has reached an unacceptable level - over 10%:
that is the real French illness. It weakens entire families, who fear for their future.
While unemployment affects over 2.5 million people, 500,000 jobs remain unfilled
The youngest - all those who should be carrying the hope of our nation - are the first affected and are living through this illness with a mixed feeling of anxiety and injustice.
The debate is not between a free-market option and a social option. It is in fact between standstill and action.
I am resolutely coming down in favour of action.
At a time when life expectancy in this country continues to rise, we are depriving ourselves of the skills of older workers.
At a time when the growth in the number of people work is slowing down, over 20 per cent of young people cannot find work.
While unemployment affects over 2.5 million people, 500,000 jobs remain unfilled.
While our labour law is one of the most protective in Europe, a large number of employees say they feel insecure in their jobs.
French social model
These problems are not acceptable. I want to fight them one by one. I shall do so without prejudice and without dogmatism.
Over the last few months, many proposals have been put on the table. Some of them deserve to be put into practice. Others raise more difficulties than they resolve.
In any case, we are not going to tack a model which is not ours onto French reality.
Of course we may be inspired, in a pragmatic way, by successful experiences in Europe or elsewhere, but we certainly won't call the basis of our social model into question.
Taxes and spending
To create jobs, the first thing we need is growth. So I shall use all tools which will enable us to favour investment and purchasing power, in a spirit of responsibility.
Our public spending commitments will be respected, and spending won't grow any faster than inflation in 2006...
All our budgetary room for manoeuvre will be used for employment.
This choice requires putting on hold the lowering of income tax.
The method of implementing this plan will reconcile the requirement of social dialogue with the need to move fast.
Leadership in Europe
I would like to conclude with our common ambition, which for 60 years has brought reconciliation and peace to our continent: Europe.
I want to say this forcefully here: France, a founding country, will occupy its full place in the Union.
It will respect its commitments. It will continue to pull the European adventure upwards.
Europe has been built on the economy and pragmatism.
Now its peoples are demanding more humanity, more protection, greater job security, greater attention paid to environmental issues, a better defence of the values of respect and equal opportunities.
The meaning of Europe can be found in these values. It cannot be constructed through market forces alone.
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