Hollande starts 5 years at the helm of France

Sarkozy hands over France's nuclear codes and other secret dossiers to first Socialist Party president in 17 years.

Hollande sworn in as French president 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hollande sworn in as French president 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS – Before noon on Tuesday, François Hollande officially became the seventh president of the Fifth Republic of France, during an inauguration ceremony in Paris.
Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed Hollande, 57, in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace.
They spoke privately for 10 minutes, an opportunity for the outgoing president to provide an update on current affairs and to hand over the codes for France’s nuclear weapons.
After the two men spoke, Hollande was inducted as the grand master of the Legion of Honor and received the Chain of Office engraved with his name.
He then delivered a speech to an audience of around 60 people, including elected politicians and some of those closest to him. None of the four children he had with his ex-companion, former Socialist Party head Ségolène Royale, were present.
This was meant to underline the difference between Hollande and Sarkozy, whose entire family attended his inauguration in 2007.
The new president embarked on his ceremonial journey along the Champs Elysées in a convertible, not any car, but a Citroën DS5 hybrid meant to save money.
This was in principle only, as it is in fact an armor-plated vehicle and adapted to the security requirements for presidential usage.
The new leader began with three symbolic ceremonies, first at the Arc de Triomphe to relight the flame of the Unknown Soldier, then a speech at the Tuileries Garden in front of the statue of Jules Ferry (1832-1893), an education minister and the father of secularism in state schools, and lastly a visit to the Curie Institute, one of the world’s top medical, biological and biophysical research centers.
Later in the day, Hollande paid his first official visit, going to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a working dinner.
She had supported Sarkozy and refused to meet Hollande during the campaign.
Although Merkel believes in the importance of a partnership with France, she opposes renegotiating the European fiscal treaty, as Hollande proposed during the campaign.
For Hollande it is a personal gamble; a lot of energy and time may be spent, but the treaty is not likely to move an inch.
It is just like five years ago with Sarkozy new in office: the same lady, same meeting, same time of the day, same working dinner, even though Hollande’s campaign slogan was “The Change is Now...”
His first day was also spent organizing his domestic political arrangements, with the nomination as his prime minister of Jean-Marc Ayrault, who was the leader of the Socialists in the National Assembly from 1997 to 2012.
Sources indicate that Laurent Fabius will be foreign minister (he was François Mitterrand’s prime minister from 1984 to 1986), and Martine Aubry will be minister of Culture, Education, Youth and Sport.
The week ahead will be extraordinarily busy for Hollande; He will visit all the “front lines” in France and end up in Washington, where US President Barack Obama is waiting for him.
Then there is the G8 Summit at Camp David, Maryland, on May 18-19, and the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.
The bilateral meeting scheduled for Friday with Obama has pleased Hollande’s closest aides; campaign chief Pierre Moscovici said it was “an honor because Hollande will be the only head of state at the G8 to have a tête-à-tête meeting with the American president.”
He is forgetting to mention that it is normal for a newly elected head of state to have such a meeting, and that it will be their first meeting.
With Obama, as with Merkel, there are a few areas of disagreement. The Americans follow the same line of austerity as Merkel and the exit of French soldiers from Afghanistan before the end of 2012, a year early rather than “In together, out together” will no doubt be discussed.
Back to Tuesday morning; after the private conversation between Hollande and Sarkozy, before departing by car, Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, exchanged warm greetings with Hollande and his partner, journalist Valérie Trierweiler.
They were then driven away waving their hands, saluting the journalists and the crowd on the roof of the Elysée, as a helicopter circled in the sky.
As they drove through the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, a crowd of supporters gathered on the sidewalk and shouted, “Nicolas! Nicolas! Thank you, Nicolas.”
Flags and posters waved, “Au revoir, M. President,” “See you soon,” “Have a nice vacation,” and “We won’t forget you.” Elsewhere you could see “NS, thank you” written on a heart shape.
Meanwhile, Hollande drove down the Champs Elysées escorted by Republican Guards on horseback as heavy rain fell.