François Hollande, President of the French Republic
Paris, 15 May 2012
On this day of my investiture into the highest office of the state, I send the French people a message of confidence.
We are a great country which, through its history, has always been able to brave the ordeals and take up the challenges facing it. Every time, it succeeded in doing so by remaining what it is. Always through high-mindedness and openness. Never through self-abasement or by self-absorption.
The mandate I received from the French people on 6 May is to put France back on her feet, in a fair way. Open up a new way in Europe. Contribute to world peace and the protection of the planet.
I appreciate the fact that we are under great pressure : massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, damaged competitiveness and a Europe struggling to overcome the crisis.
But I say this right here : there’s no inevitability, if a common desire motivates us, a clear direction is set and we fully mobilize our strengths and assets. These are significant : the productiveness of our workforce, the excellence of our researchers, the dynamism of our entrepreneurs, the work of our farmers, the quality of our public services, the global influence of our culture and language, without forgetting our demographic vitality and the eagerness of our young people.
The first condition for new-found confidence is the nation’s unity. Our differences mustn’t become divisions, or our diversity discord. The country needs calm, reconciliation and to come together. It’s the President of the Republic’s role to help bring this about. To enable all French people, without exception, to live by the same values, those of the Republic. This is my pressing duty. Whatever our age, whatever our firm beliefs, wherever we live – in mainland France or in overseas France, in our towns and cities or in our rural areas, we are France. Not one France set against another, but a reunited France with the same community of destiny.
And I’ll reaffirm on every occasion our inviolable principles of laïcité [secularism] (1), just as I will fight racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.
Confidence is also about setting the example.
As President of the Republic, I shall fully shoulder the exceptional responsibilities of this high office. I shall set the priorities, but I shall not decide everything or on behalf of everyone. In accordance with the constitution, the government will determine and conduct the nation’s policy. The rights of parliament will be respected. The judiciary will have every guarantee of independence. State power will be exercised with dignity but simplicity. With great ambition for the country. And scrupulous sobriety of conduct. The state will be impartial, because it is the property of all French people and does not belong to those who have been given responsibility for it. The rules on the appointment of public officials will be strict. And loyalty, competence and a sense of the general interest will be the sole criteria in determining my choice of the state’s most senior servants. France has the good fortune to have an excellent civil service. I want to express to it my gratitude and my expectations of it and each of its members. Confidence lies in democracy itself. I believe in local democracy and intend to revitalize it through a new act of decentralization that gives new freedom to develop our territories.
I believe in social democracy, and new areas of negotiation will be opened up to the two sides of industry, whom I shall respect – both the employees’ representatives and professional organizations. I believe in citizens’ democracy, that of voluntary organizations and civic engagement, which will be supported for the millions of volunteers who dedicate themselves to it.
Confidence depends on the justice of decisions. Justice in the very concept of wealth creation. It’s time to put production back above speculation, future investment above present satisfaction, sustainable employment above immediate profit. It’s time to embark on a transition on energy and the environment. It’s time to push back a new frontier for technological development and innovation. But justice, too, in the way the essential effort is distributed. There cannot be sacrifices for ever more people and privileges for ever fewer. This will be the thrust of the reforms the government will carry out, with a concern to reward merit, work and initiative and to discourage exorbitant income and remuneration.
Justice will be the criterion on which each public decision will be taken.
Finally, the Republic must have confidence in young people. I shall put them back in their rightful place : first place. That’s the basis of my commitment to the Republic’s schools, because their mission is vital to our country’s cohesion and the success of our economy. That’s the desire that drives me to modernize professional training, support young people into work and fight job insecurity. That’s also the admirable idea of civic service that I intend to revive.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today many peoples – above all in Europe – are watching us expectantly.
To overcome the crisis that is hitting it, Europe needs projects. It needs solidarity. It needs growth. I shall propose to our partners a new pact combining the necessary reduction in public debt with the essential stimulation of the economy. And I shall express to them the need for our continent to protect, in such an unstable world, not only its values but also its interests, in the name of the reciprocity principle in trade.
France is a nation engaged in the world. Through her history, her culture, her values of humanism, universality and freedom, she holds a unique place in it. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen has reached every corner of the globe. We must be its guardians and stand alongside all those democratic forces in the world that swear by its principles. France will respect all peoples ; she will be true everywhere to her destiny, which is to uphold the freedom of peoples, the honour of the oppressed, the dignity of women.
At this moment, when I bear responsibility for our country’s destiny and for representing it in the world, I pay tribute to my predecessors – all those before me who have held the responsibility of leading the Republic : Charles de Gaulle, who put his prestige at the service of France’s greatness and sovereignty, Georges Pompidou, who made the industrial imperative a national challenge, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who relaunched society’s modernization, François Mitterrand, who did so much for freedoms and social progress, Jacques Chirac, who marked his commitment to the values of the Republic, and Nicolas Sarkozy, to whom I extend my best wishes for the new life that opens up before him.
Long live the Republic.
Long live France./.
(1) "Laïcité" goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.
Paris, 7 May 2012
European growth/Franco-German partnership/relations with UK
Q. – How do you assess your proposal to create a European growth pact, which you have defended throughout your campaign ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – The French presidential campaign has put the demand for growth back on the agenda. The word is included in the Fiscal Compact treaty, but without content or concrete application. Yet it will be difficult if not impossible to reduce deficits and keep debt in check without additional economic activity. Pre-eminent figures such as European Central Bank Chairman Mario Draghi have spoken in favour of this growth pact, but so have other heads of governments. In Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Italy, everyone agrees that austerity alone will not bring back balanced budgets. For this reason alone I believe the French election campaign has been invaluable, and this is why it has been watched from well beyond our borders.
Q. – Angela Merkel didn’t receive you during the campaign, but the head of the Social Democratic Party, Sigmar Gabriel, did support you. Does the prospect of your first meeting with the German Chancellor make you nervous ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – Not in the least. Whatever happened during the French presidential campaign will leave no hard feelings. I perfectly understand why Angela Merkel supported Nicolas Sarkozy because of the action they have taken together, even though I have questioned its results, and because of their shared political sensibility.
Q. – The “Merkozy” couple has been criticized in Europe. What is your position on the Franco-German partnership ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – As much as I believe in the Franco-German partnership, I question the idea of a duopoly. European construction is based on a well-balanced and respectful partnership between France and Germany. The partnerships between Schmidt and Giscard, Kohl and Mitterrand, and even between Chirac and Schroeder, have proved that political differences do not mean that we cannot work together. But these heads of state combined an intergovernmental approach with European Union processes. This was the best way to avoid our partners feeling left out, or even worse, subordinate.
That balance has changed over the past few years. The Franco-German relationship has been exclusive. European institutions have been neglected and some countries, notably the more fragile ones, have had the unpleasant feeling of facing an executive board.
Q. – British Prime Minister David Cameron did not receive you either, and the British media and financial sector have been hard on you. How do you intend to reinforce the Franco-British relationship ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – One must admit that the British have been particularly shy on the issue of financial regulation, and have only paid attention to the interests of the City of London, hence their reluctance to implement a tax on financial transactions and tax harmonization in Europe. Furthermore, since the central bank can directly intervene in debt financing, the UK is better protected from speculation, and is thus relatively indifferent to the fate of the eurozone.
I will soon meet David Cameron to discuss the benefits of a closer industrial cooperation between our two countries and to continue the ongoing rapprochement in terms of defence.
Q. – Your predecessor demonstrated his role as a European leader on issues such as the fighting in Georgia, the revolution in Libya, and during the financial crisis. Is that also your ambition ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – France isn’t just any country in Europe, and its president is not an ordinary leader in the world. Sometimes directing or leading the way is not enough : he has to initiate policies, as Nicolas Sarkozy was able to demonstrate during his term. Sometimes that was fortunate, as with the UN action in Libya. Sometimes it wasn’t : I’m thinking of the Union for the Mediterranean, which due to a lack of preparation led to failure. Yes, I do intend to give France its place in the affirmation of an international ambition. What was missing in dealing with the financial crisis was consistency and perseverance, particularly the control of the financial world, the fight against tax havens, and the European Union financial transaction tax.
In the same manner, European countries weren’t able to join forces in order to reduce the trade imbalance with China. We had to wait for Obama to state the conditions of trade reciprocity for the word to even be pronounced again. And let’s not forget that the convertibility of the Chinese currency should have been discussed at the G20. I think the reform of the international monetary system must be a priority in our agenda.
Q. – Speaking of Barack Obama, you’re to meet him for the first time at the Camp David G8 Summit on 18 and 19 May. (In English) Mr Hollande, do you speak English ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – (In English) Yes, I speak English. But a French president has to speak French !
Q. – Do you think it’s important for the French Head of State to speak the common language of international diplomacy ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – He needs to understand it and to be able to have unmediated exchanges with his interlocutors. But I am attached to the French language and to the French-speaking world.
When I took part in European leaders summits, it was sometimes unpleasant for me to hear Romanian, Polish, Portuguese, and Italian friends speak English (rather than their own language), although I admit that on an informal basis, first contacts can be made in this language. Nevertheless, I will defend everywhere the use of the French language.
Q. – The United States might look at a change of president in France, especially to a socialist one, with suspicion at first. How do you intend to make yourself known and acknowledged in the United States ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – I perfectly understood President Obama’s attitude throughout the French presidential campaign. He had no reason to distance himself from Nicolas Sarkozy. It’s the basic solidarity that leaders who worked together owe to each other. Barack Obama himself is running for re-election this year, and this vote will have a huge importance in the world. The Democratic administration’s choices in terms of foreign policy showed serious and beneficial changes compared with the preceding one. In the same way, we have similarities on the economic level. So, I intend to assert France’s independence without making Barack Obama’s task any more difficult. For example, I will maintain the position I had during my campaign of a pullout of French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, in agreement with our allies.
Q. – What’s your position on the Iranian nuclear programme crisis ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – I haven’t criticized Nicolas Sarkozy’s firm stance on the risks of a nuclear proliferation. I will maintain it with the same strength and the same will. And I will not accept it if Iran, which is perfectly entitled to civil nuclear power, uses this technology for military purposes.
Q. – On this particular topic, the Obama administration seems more flexible, more ready to negotiate, than the French government.
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – Iran must bring forward all the information that was asked for and stop pretending. Sanctions must be reinforced as much as necessary. But I still believe that negotiation is possible to reach the intended goal.
Q. – Wasn’t your position about the French presence in NATO rather vague throughout your campaign ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – I regretted this decision as it was taken in 2008. The goals that were stated, and more particularly the reinforcement of the European defence mainstay, were not reached.
But I don’t intend to go back to the previous situation. I will ask for an evaluation of France’s role and responsibilities in the military command.
Q. – On Africa and the Middle East, do you share (outgoing Foreign Minister) Alain Juppé’s position of extreme firmness regarding Islamists ? He considers that negotiation is possible as long as certain boundaries are not crossed, such as the respect of fundamental human rights, of the free choice of voters, and the acceptance that different parties can succeed one another as the head of state.
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – France mustn’t change its principles depending on the circumstances or the situations. The principles we valued during the Arab Spring, when regimes prevented the advent of democracy, must be discussed with the new governments that were elected in those same countries, in Tunisia and Egypt for example. We must remind them as often as need be of the importance of the good functioning of democracy, of gender equality, and of the place that society and the state respectively hold.
Knowing if Islamic parties can enter a long-term democratic process is what is at stake here, which is why the success of this transition is very important. The Tunisians demonstrated it, even if we can see that threats are looming large.
Q. – Do you think the arrival to power of Islamists in numerous countries in northern Africa could reinforce the French fears and fantasies about Islam that were very present during the presidential campaign ?
THE PRESIDENT-ELECT – I found the confusions and generalizations that occurred throughout the campaign very upsetting. Foreigners can be of African or North African descent without being Muslim. And they can be Muslims without being “communautarists” (a French term that means identifying so strongly with one group that one separates from the nation as a whole). I want the French people to respect values that allow each individual to practice his or her faith, but in the frame of our common rules of secularism./.
¹Source of English text : Slate.com website.