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Hollande optimistic despite French Bastille Day jeers

French president François Hollande
French president François Hollande Capture écran France 2

French president François Hollande appeared determined but optimistic in a live television interview broadcast hours after he was booed at the traditional Bastille Day parade in Paris.

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He disapproved of the booing not, he said, because he himself was offended but because it showed a lack of respect for the French Presidency as an office.

Polls show that Hollande is the most unpopular president in modern French history.

In a half hour exchange, sporting his modish new glasses, he defended the controversial Responsibility Pact, a plan to reduce payroll charges paid by employers in return for a commitment to create more jobs.

Both employers and trade unions are currently arguing over the terms of the pact.

Employers say the reductions offered are offset by new constraints and that they cannot create jobs until their order books fill up, while trade unions say the pact is a gift to employers who will guarantee nothing in return.

Hollande told viewers that his current priority was economic reform and that his three-pronged approach was to “support business, reduce household taxes and cut public spending”

The French president stressed his plan to encourage more apprenticeship schemes in France but dodged a question concerning the 35 hour week and France’s employment laws, which offer considerable protection to employees but curtail job creation.

After a protest in Paris on Sunday condemning Israel’s action in Gaza during which some youths tried to storm two synagogues, Hollande declared firmly that France would not tolerate anti-Semititic acts as a response to the current conflict in the Middle East.

Hollande said that in 2015 he hoped to roll out important reforms to the French health system and a programme in French schools to nurture digital know-how.

The president also hinted at plans to introduce some sort of compulsory civic service for French youths, to replace the obligatory military service, abolished during Jacques Chirac’s presidency.

Hollande was deliberately vague about a highly controversial plan to give the vote to non-French, non-European Union citizens in local elections.

He favours the idea, which was among his manifesto promises but polls show a majority of French people oppose the it.

The legalisation of gay marriage and adoption in 2013 proved to be a highly polarising reform in France and Hollande appears in no hurry to attack another divisive issue.

Under France’s constitution, passing a law allowing the vote for foreigners in local elections would require a minimum 60 per cent parliamentary majority, which is extremely unlikely. Hollande therefore suggested that it would be pointless to introduce such legislation in the near future.

He refused to comment on former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent statements alleging that some French magistrates were politically motivated. Hollande declared simply that it was a mistake to cast suspicion on the justice system and also that the presumption of innocence applied to all.

Hollande refused to answer a question about whether France would continue without a First Lady, reminding the 2 journalists interviewing him that his policy was not to discuss his private life.

 

 

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