EU criticizes France for excessive debt, putting pressure on Macron during election campaign

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive arm today criticized France for running up excessive debt, a stinging rebuke at the height of an election campaign where President Emmanuel Macron is facing a strong challenge from the extreme right and the left.

France was one of seven nations instructed by the EU Commission to start a so-called “excessive deficit procedure,” the first step in a long process before any member state can be hemmed in and moved to take corrective action.

“Deficit criteria is not fulfilled in seven of our member states,” said EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, pointing the finger at Belgium, France, Italy, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia and Poland, in addition to France.

For decades, the EU has set out targets for member states to keep their annual deficit within 3% of Gross Domestic Product and overall debt within 60% of output. Those targets have been disregarded when it was convenient, sometimes even by countries like Germany and France, the biggest economies in the bloc.

The French annual deficit stood over 5% last year.

Over the past years, exceptional circumstances like the COVID-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine allowed for leniency, but that has now come to an end.

Still, today’s announcement touched a nerve in France, after Macron called snap elections after he lost out to the hard right of Marine Le Pen in the EU parliamentary polls on June 9.

Le Pen’s National Rally and a new united left front are polling ahead of Macron’s party in the elections, and both challengers have put forward plans where deficit spending to get out of the economic rut is essential.