tuesday, 15 may of 2012

Hollande Sworn In as President of France


Hollande Sworn In as President of France

In a dignified ceremony in a red and gold hall in the Élysée Palace, François Hollande, 57, was inaugurated Tuesday morning as president of France, the first Socialist to hold the office since François Mitterrand left in 1995.

"We are a single France, undivided," Mr. Hollande said after his investiture, promising a presidency of "dignity, simplicity and soberness." He vowed that “the state will be impartial because it belongs to all of its citizens” and insisted that a united France could meet its difficult social and economic challenges, but warned that the country "cannot have sacrifices on one side and privilege on the other."

He said he wanted “to open a new path for Europe,” based on economic growth as well as fiscal discipline.

Mr. Hollande, the seventh president of the Fifth Republic, was accompanied by his partner, Valérie Trierweiler; they will be the first unmarried couple to represent France.

Mr. Hollande entered the Élysée along a long red carpet in the courtyard, met by Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the first incumbent president to lose re-election since 1981. Both men, in dark suits, shook hands and disappeared inside for a meeting, in which, it is said, Mr. Sarkozy handed over France’s nuclear codes to his successor. Some suggested he also handed over the password to the Élysée Twitter account.

Afterward, the two men were joined by Ms. Trierweiler and Mr. Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Then Mr. Sarkozy and his wife, dressed casually in black pants, left the Élysée in a car, as some of Mr. Sarkozy’s supporters shed tears and Mr. Hollande proceeded to take charge of a country that elected him by a thin margin on May 6.

In his short speech, Mr. Hollande praised his predecessors for particular accomplishments. About Mr. Sarkozy, he simply said that “I express my good wishes for the new life that is opening before him.”

Later today, Mr. Hollande will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arc de Triomphe, then lunch with important members of his Socialist Party, including four former Socialist prime ministers. He then will go to the Tuileries to give homage to Jules Ferry, a famous defender of colonialism best known for instituting compulsory, free education in France, a sign of Mr. Hollande’s stated priorities of education and better opportunities for a youth population with a 25 percent unemployment rate.

Then he will be received at Paris City Hall, where he will name his prime minister, who is widely expected to be Jean-Marc Ayrault, 62, a fluent German speaker who is mayor of Nantes and who heads the Socialist Party group in the French National Assembly.

Mr. Hollande will fly to Berlin for a much-anticipated meeting with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, with whom he will dine Tuesday night. Mr. Hollande has vowed to emphasize “growth” over austerity and says he will present a growth pact to parallel a fiscal treaty mandating debt limits. But the problems of Greece will no doubt dominate a meeting that must also serve as a way for the two leaders, from different ideological poles, to begin to trust each other and work together. As the heads of the two biggest economies in the euro zone, their relationship will be vital to the future of the European Union, let alone its common currency.

Mr. Hollande was sober about what faces him. “I take stock today of the force of the pressures our country is under: massive debt, feeble growth, high unemployment, damaged competitiveness, a Europe that is struggling to get out of the crisis,” he said. “But nothing is inevitable as long as we are driven by a common will, as long as a clear course has been set, and we apply all our strength and the assets of France.”

(Published by The New York Times - May 15, 2012)

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