Hollande sworn in as new French president
Francois Hollande is France's first Socialist president in 17 years; his first words as president will be keenly watched by financial markets eager for reassurance.
Francois Hollande was sworn in as president of France on Tuesday morning in a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in central Paris.
Hollande, 57, is the first socialist leader of France since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995. He was elected to a five-year term earlier this month in an election in which voters ousted incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy after only one term.
Hollande arrived at the 18th-century palace that is the traditional residence of French presidents at 10:00 a.m., where he was greeted by outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy on the Elysee's red-carpeted steps. Following a forty minute private meeting with Sarkozy, Hollande was declared president after the head of the constitutional court read out the final results of the May 6 election.
Following the ceremony, Hollande is due to leave for Berlin, where he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a critical meeting on austerity and growth in Europe.
His first words as president will be keenly watched by financial markets eager for reassurance that his push to tack pro-growth instruments onto Europe's budget discipline treaty will not sour the start of his relationship with Merkel.
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, a friend of three decades and a seasoned European affairs specialist, said the Berlin meeting was sure to go well, but that this did not mean Hollande would be unable to press his case with Merkel for a more pro-growth strategy.
"It will go well in terms of form because Francois Hollande is courteous and so is Angela Merkel," Jouyet, head of France's financial markets regulator, told RTL radio. "In terms of substance, neither has lessons to give the other."
Any indications on initial economic policy will be scrutinised both outside France and inside, where frustration over rampant unemployment and a sickly economy were key factors behind conservative Nicolas Sarkozy's defeat.
Hollande, who said on the night of his election that the weight of events in Europe forced him to keep his celebrations short, said on Monday he knew he would be judged on how he starts his presidency.
Anxious not to lose the "Mr. Normal" image that appealed to voters tired of his showman predecessor, Hollande had asked for his inauguration ceremony to be kept as low-key as possible. In a break with tradition, he invited just three dozen or so personal guests to join some 350 officials at the event.
Hollande will be heading to the United States on Thursday for G8 and NATO summits as soon as his government is named and holds a first cabinet meeting on Thursday.