France, conscious of image problem, looks for foreign investitions

The 30-odd measures include plans to ease red tape for foreign entrepreneurs and the government aims to enact most this year.

"France is an open country," insisted Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, for whom the measures will "improve on a daily basis the attractiveness of France, starting this year."

The past year has been a rocky one for France. It suffered three weeks of riots in depressed suburbs last fall and massive protests this spring against proposed labor reforms.

Voters' rejection of a proposed European constitution last May also delivered a blow to France's image as a driving force in Europe's political and economic integration, the AP reports.

More recently, Villepin has been severely shaken by suspicions that he sought to dig up dirt on a political rival. He said he did nothing wrong.

Villepin did not directly address France's recent troubles in his remarks after a ministerial meeting that approved the plans. But his aides said they were aware of the potential impact they had on investors' perceptions.

Among other steps, the government will scrap the registration card needed by foreigners running businesses in France. Red tape will also be simplified for foreign managers setting up in France.