French mayor goes on hunger strike to receive government handout

Mayor Stephane Gatignon 
By: Anika Rao 

A French mayor went on a hunger strike until he will receive a government handout, according to reports.

The mayor of a poor village near Paris, has launched a tent outside parliament and gone on hunger strike to demand emergency funds of cash after his city was hit with a cash shortage, arguing that the economic crisis is pushing dozens of cities to ruin.

Mayor Stephane Gatignon, whose high-profile protest began on Friday, said that the global financial crisis is strangling the people of Sevran, and he needs five million euros or about $6.4 million by Tuesday to pay municipal accounts.

"Specifically, we have reached the end of the road. We have no more access to more loans," Gatignon, who is a Green Party member, said. The town is only a short train ride north of the capital, which is the most visited tourist city in the world.

He said that he needs the additional funds to pay for public works companies, and more broadly argued that the government should provide more assistance to the 100 poorest municipalities in France, where unemployment is often well above the national average.

Government Minister Marylise Lebranchu said that government aid for these cases is expected to increase under local financing packages due to be put to a vote in Parliament on Tuesday, but would not commit to meet the additional demands of Gatignon.

Almost three years after the debt market crisis in Europe, the socialist government of France is struggling to slash its public deficit to three percent of gross domestic product next year from 4.5 percent this year.

While President Francois Hollande promised to do so without subjecting French voters to Greek style austerity, the 2013 budget aims to raise 20 billion euros from tax hikes and 10 billion more in spending cuts, the biggest budget squeeze in more than half a century.