PARIS – French President François Hollande said in Paris on Thursday that he wishes to put an end to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and to strengthen the European Union politically and economically.

“We have to convince Russia that in the interest of the region, in the interest of peace, we have to put an end to Bashar Assad’s regime,” Hollande said, referring to Moscow’s opposition to taking steps against Damascus.

Also at the press conference, which he held to mark the completion of his first year in office, the president proposed the establishment of “an economic government for Europe which will meet every month... with a real long term president... in order to get Europe out of its stagnation,” saying he hopes to complete this task in two years. “Year two of [my presidential term] will be on the offensive.”

In the opening remarks of his speech, Hollande focused on the economic recession in France and its social consequences, but also its effects on Europe as a whole. On Wednesday, Hollande was in Brussels for a meeting with the Executive Board of the EU.

As a solution to the crisis of the euro zone, Hollande announced a four point initiative: the “economic government,” more help to tackle youth unemployment, EU support for the development of new energy sources and a “new stage of integration” for the members of the European Union.

“The Franco-German couple is vital to the functioning of Europe”, the French president said, responding positively to Germany, which had demanded more political cooperation between the 27 EU countries.

In response to a question from a British journalist about the possible referendum to be held in the UK over leaving the EU, Hollande responded: “The EU has existed before UK became a member, but I wish they will remain a member.”

Following his more-than-twohour press conference, Hollande was criticized by the media and politicians.

“Who believes him? It is the first time that a president of the Republic is ‘invited’ to Brussels to give an account of his actions,” said Valerie Pécresse, the former budget minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right National Front Party, commented that Hollande is “just a little spokesman of the Brussels commission,” François Delapierre, from the Left Party, said the content of the press conference was “old soup with Sarkozy inside and a lot of Merkel” made by “a self important president without imagination.”

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