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Manuel Valls, the tough-guy prime minister named by Francois Hollande to speed up France’s economic reforms, is facing his trickiest challenge yet as striking railworkers, rebel back-benchers and even angry actors test his resolve. Whether Valls stands firm or not in coming weeks could determine whether Hollande achieves his aim of reversing the decline in French industrial competitiveness and so reviving the euro-zone’s second largest economy. “This is an important moment. Are we reforming? Are we advancing? Or can we no longer do anything?” a source in Hollande’s office said of the challenge facing Valls.

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