News / Europe

France's Hollande Sets Out Reforms, Stonewalls on Private Life

French President Francois Hollande answers questions during news conference at Elysee Palace, Paris, Jan. 14, 2014.
French President Francois Hollande answers questions during news conference at Elysee Palace, Paris, Jan. 14, 2014.
Reuters
President Francois Hollande brushed away questions about an alleged affair with an actress on Tuesday and unveiled moves to ease company taxes, cut labor charges and trim France's high public spending to revive a stagnant economy.
 
He called for France and Germany to harmonize corporate taxation and create a joint venture to manage the transition to renewable energy, modeled on European plane giant Airbus.
 
With over 500 journalists packed into the Elysee Palace ballroom for a New Year news conference, the Socialist leader, deeply unpopular with voters, made no mention of controversy about his private life in a 30-minute introductory speech and defiantly stonewalled on the subject for the next two hours.
 
Valerie Trierweiler, companion of France's new President Francois Hollande, attends the investiture ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 15, 2012.Valerie Trierweiler, companion of France's new President Francois Hollande, attends the investiture ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 15, 2012.
x
Valerie Trierweiler, companion of France's new President Francois Hollande, attends the investiture ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 15, 2012.
Valerie Trierweiler, companion of France's new President Francois Hollande, attends the investiture ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 15, 2012.
His official partner, Valerie Trierweiler, is in hospital recovering from shock after a celebrity magazine published pictures of what it said was Hollande wearing a motorcycle helmet visiting actress Julie Gayet for nocturnal trysts.
 
“Everyone in their personal life can face trials. That is our case,” Hollande said when a French reporter ventured a coy first question about Trierweiler's future as first lady.
 
“These are painful moments ... This is neither the place nor the time to [discuss] that,” Hollande said, adding that he would clarify the issue before a visit to the United States on Feb. 9, on which Trierweiler had been due to accompany him.
 
The president said he had chosen not to sue the magazine Closer for invading his privacy because as head of state he was immune from being sued himself and did not want to create a double standard. He did not deny the reported affair.
 
The French are traditionally indulgent of their leaders' sexual indiscretions, and an opinion poll on Sunday showed an overwhelming majority said it did not change their view of Hollande, who was entitled to privacy in his personal life.
 
Ditherer no more?
 
Before the embarrassing publication, he had become the least popular French president in modern times, largely due to tax increases, recession and high unemployment, compounded by a reputation for dithering.
 
Hollande sought to erase that image and adopt the clothes of a social democratic reformer as he set out a “responsibility pact” to cut the tax and regulatory burden on companies in return for commitments to create jobs and boost training. As part of that drive, employers will no longer fund family allowances via payroll taxes from 2017.
 
He promised a further 50 billion euros ($68 billion) in spending cuts in 2015-17 on top of a planned 14 billion this year, saying they could be achieved by making national and local government more efficient while preserving France's generous social model.
 
“This is the biggest [initiative] proposed in our country for decades,” Hollande said, teasing conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy for promising reforms but not delivering.
 
In first reactions, market economists welcomed the change in tone but were more measured on the content, noting the new moves represented a slight deepening of already planned cuts and that some funding details remained unclear.
 
Ion-Marc Valahu, fund manager at Geneva-based Clairinvest, said: “At least he's acknowledged that there are issues that need to be solved for the economy to recover, but they need to do a lot more to slow down the pace of job destruction. He can say what he wants, but 2017 is a long way to go.”
 
“More and more, the future French economic policy will look like that of the previous conservative majority,” said Dominique Barbet, market economist at BNP Paribas.
 
France's hard left accused him of a sell-out. “This is a real social irresponsibility pact,” said the Communist party's National Secretary Pierre Laurent, complaining of an attack on the French social model.
 
Defense of Europe
 
Hollande, who defied street protests to legalize gay marriage last year, signaled he was ready for a new controversy by announcing plans for a law allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives under strict controls.
 
Hollande defended the European Union ahead of European Parliament elections in May and said he would not let Eurosceptics who want to pull France out of the euro prevail.
 
A recent poll suggested the anti-EU far-right National Front could come first in the European election in France, often used to register a protest vote, ahead of both the mainstream conservative opposition and the Socialists.
 
His proposal for a Franco-German joint energy company caused some surprise in Berlin, but officials said the two countries' environment ministers had been working on a detailed joint energy transition plan last year, until the French minister was sacked for criticizing budget cuts.
 
Previous French announcements of joint industrial projects with Germany have often come to nothing or little, partly because private German industrialists are reluctant to work with state-influenced French companies.
 
Half a dozen journalists tried during the event to follow up with questions on Hollande's personal life, but to no avail.
 
A similar event staged by predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy after his 2007 divorce was dominated by curiosity over his romance with singer Carla Bruni, whom he subsequently wed. When Sarkozy played up the relationship, opinion polls suggested voters disapproved of the flaunting of his personal life.
 
Conservative former premier Alain Juppe jokingly entered the debate over whether Trierweiler remained France's unofficial First Lady.
 
“In France we have a status for everything — perhaps now we'll also have one for the Second Lady.”

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid