Hollande's presidency begins with whirlwind day in Paris
French President François Hollande, inaugurated today, spoke about the need for unity and reiterated promises to invest in education.
French President François Hollande said as he was sworn in today at the presidential palace that his presidency would be no easy job, given France's economic difficulties, but vowed to unite the nation.Skip to next paragraph
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“I measure today the weight of the problems our country is facing: a massive debt, weak economic growth, a high unemployment rate, a decreased [ability to be] competitive, and a Europe struggling to exit the crisis,” Mr. Hollande said in his inaugural address.
“No matter our age, no matter our convictions, whether we live on the continent or in oversea territories, in our cities, in our neighborhoods, in our rural areas, we are France,” Hollande said. “Not one France against another but one France united in a common destiny.”
IN PICTURES – François Hollande, France's new president
During the 11-minute speech, Hollande sought to distance himself from his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who was accused by his critics of dividing France by targeting certain portions of the population, such as Muslims or trade unionists, for political gains, particularly during the presidential campaign.
In another thinly veiled criticism of the former president, whose intense activity earned him the nickname “hyper-president,” Hollande pledged not to rule personally on every topic. “I will set priorities but I won’t decide on everything, for everything and everywhere,” he said.
With today's ceremony, Hollande became the seventh president of the Fifth Republic of France, which marks France's modern political era, and only its second Socialist president, 17 years after Socialist François Mitterrand finished his second term in 1995.
The inauguration was an all-day, optimistic affair filled with symbols and references to French history, punctuated with rain and even hail. Hollande delivered three speeches, paid a visit to the Paris mayor, appointed a new prime minister, and finally, set out on his first official trip abroad: to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was greeted by supporters at every stop who tried to get as close to him as possible. At his second speech, students clambered on to chairs to get a better view as he approached the stage to deliver a speech on education.
His trip to Germany was delayed when Hollande's plane was struck by lightning en route to Berlin. As a precaution, the plane turned back and Hollande and those traveling with him were put on a second plane.
Hollande arrived at the Elysée palace at 10:00 a.m. local time and was welcomed by Sarkozy, according to the inauguration ceremony’s protocol. The two men had a private conversation in which Sarkozy was expected to give Hollande the activation codes for France’s nuclear weapons and transmit other classified information to him.
Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy then walked hand-in-hand to a car awaiting them in the palace’s courtyard, leaving just a few minutes before Hollande’s inauguration speech. Sarkozy supporters, many of whom had gathered on the street outside the palace more than two hours earlier, chanted, “Nicolas merci!” (“Thank you Nicolas!").