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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs