France is bankrupt and can no longer afford to pay its workers generous salaries and subsidies, its prime minister has declared. Francois Fillon made the undiplomatic outburst during a trip to the French island of Corsica, where farmers were demanding more government money.
"I am at the head of a state that is in a position of bankruptcy," he said. "I am at the head of a state that for 15 years has been in chronic deficit. I am at the head of a state that has not once passed a balanced budget in 25 years. This can't go on."
Mr Fillon's government is due to announce the 2008 budget this week with a deficit of €41.5billion (£29billion). But his remarks drew immediate fire, both from within his own ranks and from the opposition.
Francois Bayrou, the head of the centrist Modem party, said Mr Fillon seemed to forget that both he and Nicolas Sarkozy, who was finance minister before becoming president, had been in government since 2002 without improving the situation.