May 31 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel says France has an obligation to implement structural reforms, now that the country's been given an extra two years to meet its budget deficit targets. Her comments came after French President Francois Hollande said the EU executive cannot ''dictate'' French reforms. Rough cut only (no reporter naration).
(ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION) German Chancellor Angela Merkel told France it must put key reforms in place, now that the EU Commission has granted it extra time to reduce its budget deficit. Merkel held a joint news conference with her French counterpart Francois Hollande after a lengthy meeting in Paris on Thursday (May 30). She pointed out that Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Ireland had already undertaken deep structural changes. Hollande defended his comment that the EU executive cannot "dictate" reforms to member states - a defiant, nationalist tone that angered Germany's ruling conservatives. He also defended his government's right to decide how long-overdue reforms of France's pension system and labour markets are implemented. He said that France would stick to its objective of balancing its budget in structural terms by 2017 and meet new interim targets set by Brussels, but he bristled at detailed suggestions from the Commission at what to do or avoid. During the meeting the two leaders also agreed on proposing that the 17-nation euro zone appoint a full-time president and hold more frequent summits to coordinate economic policy. They also promised to speed up the disbursement of 6 billion euros in EU funds to fight youth unemployment. Elsewhere in the news conference, Hollande said he was sticking to a target of cutting down unemployment by year-end, after fresh data showed that the number of jobless hit a new all-time high in April. In a stark illustration of the challenge facing the Socialist president, the 3,264,400 registered job seekers in April marked two uninterrupted years of monthly rises and a 1.2 percent increase on March. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL SAYING: "Germany has said very clearly that we see two things: firstly, we've agreed that the Commission gave France one more, or two years' more time to achieve the deficit goal of 3.0 percent, but (this was) also coupled with the expectation, and the French President just confirmed this, that reforms are also carried out. And both go hand in hand." (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, SAYING: "The (European) Commission is perfectly within its remit when it gives a certain number of areas which we have to work on, but the state, the government, is acting within its own responsibilities when it talks about the way of doing it, the method, and even the different options available to achieve the desired result."