Hollande Delivers New Year’s Speech, Reflects on Current French Issues

François Hollande.Photo: Flickr.com/jmayrault

François Hollande.
Photo: Flickr.com/jmayrault

PARIS– At 8:00 pm on Monday, December 31, François Hollande wished the French a Happy New Year.

Every year, this event is broadcasted by the main channels. Every year, journalists wonder how the President will do it, believing that the speech’s context sends a special message to the country.

In his first such speech, Hollande chose to be standing, speaking before a window in the Elysée, with the French and European flags visible behind him. Former presidents looked calm and reassuring, but Hollande’s words were not comforting. His face was serious, conveying a sense of urgency.

He first promised not to hide any difficulty from them, acknowledging the reality of a serious time, with crises, debts, and unemployment. Hollande called upon Europe to balance this sad introduction. According to him, the EU had finally found “the instruments of stability and growth it needed.”

Just as he did during his presidential campaign, Hollande put the French difficulties in a broader context, implying that the solution could not come from the French state alone, emphasizing that a strong an united Europe was the key to a better future.

The President then tried to appear like the leader some French felt missing these past few months: “my first, my only duty, it to make this country move forward and that the youth find hope again.” For Hollande, this hope apparently lies in his battle against unemployment.

On this subject, Hollande made a promise to “reverse the unemployment curve within a year, no matter what.” That promise sounded unrealistic to many, considering the current financial crisis.

Hollande reasserted that his government was working everyday to find the “strict balance” between cutting debt and making every citizen part of the national effort, for instance with new taxes. Not referring directly to the Depardieu scandal and to the rejection of the very symbolic 75% tax by the constitutional council, Hollande declared that he would still make sure that “those who have the most will be those that will be asked for the most.”

There is no doubt that Hollande knew he was addressing his speech to a French society that is currently divided and disillusioned. He reminded the French that he wished his country to be united, declaring he wanted 2013 to be “the year of the mobilization of all to succeed.” In this vein, he highlighted his will to see a fruitful discussion between the social partners. He hinted at the discussions between the different labor unions to reach an agreement to insure both adaptability and flexibility to bring back growth and job security, weakened by the crisis.

Stressing the economic issues, Hollande declared that the Prime Minister and his government where working to increase both public and private investments in the country, setting up a plan for 2020.

Still emphasizing the need for unity, Hollande changed his focus to deal with his social issues, his last major topic. In the past few months, the defenders of Hollande’s social reforms have at times showed disappointment and anger at the President’s slowness and hesitancy to institute the bills he had promised.

Hollande asserted that, “we have all the resources needed to succeed, on the condition though that we agree on the essential.” He mentioned his support for equal rights including marriage for all, his support for the current reforms of the electoral system, and the respect for the dignity of life, specifically regarding the recent euthanasia debate.

At the end of his speech, Hollande concluded his speech by praising the return of all the French forces from Afghanistan, and addressed his support to the French hostages all around the world, and to the victims of the conflicts in Syria and Mali.

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