Hollande Holds First Press Conference Since Election

François Hollande.
Photo: Flickr.com/jmayrault

PARIS – On November 13, President François Hollande held his first press conference since his election at Palais de L’Elysee. For almost two and a half hours, he relentlessly justified his actions in the last six months. Despite the fact that critics are multiplying, Hollande continues to deny any shift in policy.

On the international front, Hollande proclaimed the official recognition of “the Syrian National Coalition as the future provisional government of Syria,” to cut ties with Bashar Al Assad. This coalition, aiming to unite the Syrian opposition forces, was founded on Sunday in Doha and is headed by Ahmad Maaz Khatib.

In Europe, Hollande gave himself a pat on the back, reminding France that “it is by solidarity rather than austerity that we will accomplish the goals of deficit reduction.” Moreover, he reiterated his support for Greece, remarking that Greece deserves the support it was “promised” by the European Union and the IMF.

When interrogated on the state of Franco-German relations, Hollande noted that the relationship “is good.” Through this reassurance, he intended to hush the recurring rumors of disagreement between Paris and Berlin. For instance, last Friday, the German news announced the worries of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble. Alarmed by the French economic situation, he hired five consultants to assess the necessary steps for reform.

The President stressed deficit reduction, initially in a “forced” manner, but later declaring that we would make it “his” mission to “straighten growth” and “reduce unemployment.” In the face of a 10.1 % unemployment figure from October (figures INSSE the National Institute of Statistics) and an economic growth forecast that continues to be revised downwards for 2012, Hollande has reason to prioritize this policy in particular.

President Hollande defended the Welsh report on the competiveness of France. He will implement the advice given, and added that tax credit for businesses is not a “gift” but a “lever.” Moreover, he anticipated the increase of the VAT from 19.6 to 20% from 1 January 2014.

Regarding social policies, Hollande reaffirmed his commitment to gay marriage, despite the opposition of religious institutions and the Right. Concerning foreigners’ right to vote, François Hollande kept his guard up: “The government can draft the policy, but will put nothing into place until its passage is assured.” He announced that a law on non-overlapping mandates would be voted on, as recommended by the Jospin report on the moralization of politics made public on Friday November 9.

When confronted about his decline in popularity, he remarked, “the only question worth asking is not the state of public opinion, it is the state of France.” He noted that since the beginning of his term, “many promises have been kept.”

Rather than succumbing to the attacks of critics, Hollande left the conference intact, with a few words on the context of his tenure: “We are living much more than a crisis. We are living in changing world. For six months I made choices that need not be changed in direction, for I know that these choices are consistent with my commitments, my principles and above all, the interests of France. “

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