de villepin AP 298.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has admitted in a newspaper interview that he had made errors and been misunderstood in his management of a hotly contested youth labour law that has sent students and unions into the streets in violent protests.
Villepin denied, however, that he has been disavowed by President Jacques Chirac, who has ordered up a new, softer version of the law in a bid to buy social peace that, instead, appears to have fed opponents' ardour. Unions and students looked to a new day of strikes and protests set for Tuesday.
After triggering strikes and protests, the law appears to be taking a toll on Villepin. He was dealt a further blow with the decision, announced yesterday, to place the new measure in the hands of parliament - not the government.
Villepin was criticised for being intransigent in insisting on keeping the law, which is aimed at encouraging companies to hire youths under 26 by making it easier to fire them.
"There is misunderstanding and incomprehension about the direction of my action. I profoundly regret it," he told Le Journal du Dimanche. Asked if he had made mistakes, he replied, "of course, in all political action there is some error."
But, he added, "the main error, the only one that would have been unforgivable, would have been to do nothing against the mass unemployment in our country."
The interview was conducted Friday night, after Chirac spoke. It was made available last night.
A poll by the CSA firm published yesterday showed that 72 per cent of the French were not convinced by Chirac, and 75 per cent said Villepin was weakened by the crisis.