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President Hollande addresses nation in Bastille Day speech

Reuters/France TV/Handout

France’s President François Hollande addressed the nation in his first Bastille Day television interview following the traditional military parade and air show. Hollande spoke out about the continuing violence in Syria, PSA Peugeot Citroen’s announcement of mass job cuts, and his partner Valérie Trierweiler’s controversial tweet.

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Speaking to journalists on Saturday afternoon, Hollande said there was still time to avoid a civil war in Syria and urged Russia to stop blocking UN Security Council measures to resolve the crisis.

He said that continuing pressure on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad was necessary, including a political transition that would see him hand over leadership.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Hollande took on domestic affairs during his interview, speaking about France’s unemployment rate and specifically about the proposed layoffs at PSA Peugeot Citroen. The French car company announced last week that they would cut some 8,000 jobs.

He said that the current plan was not acceptable and that some type of renegotiation was necessary. "The state will not leave this be," he added.

The president stressed that his first priority was employment in general, adding that, “everything must be done so that employment is as high as possible at the end of my five-year term."

Hollande also said that the country would not put a “golden rule” on balanced budgets in the constitution, as predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to do.

The “golden rule” would commit countries to balancing their budgets over the course of economic cycles.

Hollande gave kudos to the men and women who serve the country, and paid tribute to the 83 soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The president noted that France’s footballers should model themselves on the military, who serve the country for little money while risking their lives.

France’s football team got bad press during the Euro 2012 tournament last month, after player Samir Nasri’s foul-mouthed rant following France’s defeat by Spain.

And, as many anticipated, Hollande spoke about his partner Valérie Trierweiler’s controversial tweet during France’s parliamentary elections in June.

Trierweiler notoriously sent a message on her Twitter account supporting Socialist candidate Olivier Falorni, instead of publicly backing the Socialist favourite, Ségolène Royal.

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The tweet caused a media frenzy, as speculation continues over a possible rivalry between Hollande’s current partner and Royal, the mother of Hollande’s children and former longtime partner.

Hollande remained tight-lipped about the tweet, saying only that more clear laws should be put in place over the role of a first lady.

"Private affairs are resolved in private,” Hollande said. “I have told this to those close to me so they can scrupulously accept this principle.”

An interview with journalists on France's national holiday has become a tradition for presidents in France, one that former president Nicolas Sarkozy scrapped during his term.

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which marked the start of the French Revolution.

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