French economy in focus as elections loom

France: The next euro crisis?
France: The next euro crisis?

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France: The next euro crisis? 03:21

Story highlights

  • France is a key player in plans to lead the eurozone out of its debt crisis
  • Focus is turning to the country's own finances ahead of the presidential elections
  • Former finance minister Thierry Breton says the country must implement a balanced budget

France -- a key player in plans to lead the eurozone out of its debt crisis -- is facing economic headwinds of its own. And, as the country's politicians head into a spring election, focus is turning from the bloc's crisis to the country's own finances.

President Nicolas Sarkozy -- running again for the top job -- is pitching to make France more competitive by introducing a sales tax and dismantling the 35 hour working week. Socialist Francois Hollande, who polls show is the front-runner, plans to increase taxes and loosen the government's purse-strings.

But France's former finance minister, Thierry Breton, says the country must implement -- and stick with -- a balanced budget. "France will be the country in Europe with the highest level of debt to be refinanced on the market," Breton told CNN. "We know what we have to do -- it's not rocket science."

Breton said quicker action will mean less pain. "The longer you wait, the more painful it will be for the population," he said. However, Greece has proved an unhealthy example for countries attempting to recover from years of overspending. "They gave [Greece] two years, or three years, to go to zero. It was too painful," he said. "For us, if we say five or six years we will do it, I'm convinced."