FRANCE

France vows to tackle unemployment after far-right surge

Dominique Faget / AFP | French Prime Minister Manuel Valls delivers a speech during the closing of the "Strategie Nationale de Recherche" conference at the the Musee du quai Branly in Paris on December 14, 2015.

The French government will announce new measures aimed at fighting unemployment next month, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday, a day after regional elections saw the far-right National Front (FN) score a record number of votes.

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Speaking on national television, Valls did not spell out specific details but said Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri was preparing a "massive plan" to boost professional education.

"We must act quickly. These measures will be ready in January," he told France 2 television.

France's unemployment rate rose to 10.6 percent in the third quarter, its highest quarterly rate since 1997.

The regional election run-off, in which the conservative Les Républicains party won seven constituencies and the Socialists five, was no real victory for the two mainstream parties, who have been shaken by the FN's growing appeal to disillusioned voters.

Although it won no region on Sunday after the Socialists pulled out of its key target regions and urged their supporters to back the conservatives of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, the FN, led by Marine le Pen, still recorded its best showing in its history, securing more than 6.8 million votes.

"Tonight, there is no place for relief or triumphalism," Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. "The danger posed by the far right has not gone away; far from it."

Sarkozy struck a similar theme, calling the strong FN showing a "warning sent to all politicians, ourselves included, in the first round".

"We now have to take the time for in-depth debates about what worries the French, who expect strong and precise answers," he said, citing Europe, unemployment, security and national identity issues.

Le Pen, who had hoped to use regional power as a springboard to boost her chances in 2017 presidential elections, lost by a huge margin in northern France on Sunday, where she led her party's ticket, attracting 42.8 percent of the votes in the run-off vs 57.2 percent for the conservatives.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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