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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs