François Hollande leaves the US after four days of international talks:

Francois Hollande
Photo: Flickr.com/jmayrault

President François Hollande spent the last four days in the United States for his first official visit to the country as Commander-in-Chief. During the visit, he met with U.S. President Barrack Obama, attended the G8 summit at Camp David and joined the other NATO members in Chicago for the NATO summit. Hollande had four days prove that he could be not only the president of the French people, but a principle player in the international community.

 The G8 Summit

The joint declaration from the G8 summit sounded very familiar to most French citizens as it corresponded very closely with Hollande’s established platform. He welcomed the summit’s commitment to “encourage growth” as well as to take measures to deal with the debt crises plaguing Europe. He believed that international leaders had met the expectations of the citizens and markets, both American and French, perfectly by “putting growth at the core of the discussion.” It echoed Obama’s own declaration from Camp David: “All the leaders agree today, here, to say that growth and employment must be our absolute priority”.

However, agreement on the word “growth” did not necessarily mean an agreement on the strategies needed to implement the term. François Hollande was strongly supported by Italian leader Mario Monti, arguing that growth, rather than further austerity is the best solution to the crisis. Meanwhile, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, argues that the best strategy is structural reforms. Ideologically between these European leaders, Obama filled the role as a sort of arbiter, asserting that working for growth and fighting debts were two faces of the same coin, a position Hollande defends in attempt to compromise with Merkel.

Hollande also said that the Heads of State drafted a plan to address the issue of Greece. The members of the G8 asserted their common goal of Greece’s continued presence in the Euro zone.

Concerning Iran, Hollande echoed many of the other leaders, desiring a diplomatic solution to the issue without yielding to the previous demands.

The NATO summit

Regarding Afghanistan, an important topic of debate for France, Hollande asserted “we have done more than our duty.” His position regarding French commitment to the Afghan war proved to be more flexible than many NATO members expected. After 83 French deaths, the new Hollande believes that it’s time for France to give the control and protection of its territory back to the Afghan army, “our mission, in terms of on the ground combat, is over.” Plans are in place for France withdraw all direct military commitment in Afghanistan by the end of 2012. The deadline is one year earlier than previously scheduled. Under the initial plan, the withdrawal of international troops was set for the end of 2013.

Hollande simultaneously tried to reassure his international partners of France’s willingness to take part in a larger international cooperation. While most French troops will leave Afghanistan, Hollande continued to underlined his “common interests” with Obama. “In 2013, the only things left will be the essential elements needed for training, what we have defined according to the treaty France and Afghanistan signed in January.” After 2014, when no foreign troops remain in the country, Hollande agreed that France will be a part of the “civilian support to increase access to development, education, healthcare, freedom of women.”

The conditions of French participation in the last phase of the Afghan mission are yet to be completely defined. The French president refused to commit to a specific financial contribution after 2014. He requested guaranties and oversight regarding how and when the money will be spent before promising further aid.

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