French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault outlined on Tuesday the main reforms his recently-appointed Socialist government will introduce, offering a preview of the important policy battles that are likely to dominate French politics over the next five years.
Ayrault pulled back the curtain on President François Hollande’s ambitious reform agenda during a rowdy appearance before parliament in which he focused primarily on France’s economy and its fiscal concerns.
The speech to MPs – Ayrault’s first as the premier – was interrupted on several occasions because of heckling from conservative opposition lawmakers, and temporarily suspended after Socialist MP Patrick Vignalin suffered a health distress and had to be helped out of the chamber.
Socialists will press ahead with Hollande’s pledge to spend more on education and welfare, while balancing the budget by 2017, Ayrault announced. The additional political and social reforms he unveiled on Tuesday were also largely in line with the president’s election promises.
"In the first half of 2013, the right to marriage and adoption will be open to all couples, without discrimination," the prime minister told the National Assembly.
While same-sex couples in France can enter into civil union, known as the PACS, they are not allowed to marry or adopt children.
In another measure likely to face stiff opposition from the right, Ayrault said the government would extend voting rights to immigrants in local elections, but did not set a date for a new law. Immigrants will need to complete five years of permanent legal residence in France to be eligible to vote.
The prime minister said that in accordance with an agreement with France’s Green party, his government would work to reduce the amount of domestically-used electricity that is produced by nuclear energy facilities from its current level of 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025.
In regard to banking, the new Socialist administration would force financial institutions to separate their saving and investment activities, from those related to trading and stock market speculation.
The French prime minister, whose post is second in importance only to the president’s, also said he would tackle issues related to the country’s governing system and highlighted a handful of foreign policy dossiers.
He said some proportional voting would be introduced in France’s next legislative poll, which should allow smaller parties to have a greater representation in parliament.
France was fully invested in ending repression and violence in Syria, and finding a political transition in which President Bashar al-Assad would step down, Ayrault said.
He also noted there would be greater economic cooperation with Africa, and repeated Hollande’s promise to end French army combat missions in Afghanistan by the end of the year.