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 Francois Hollande takes the helm in France

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PostSubject: Francois Hollande takes the helm in France   Wed May 16, 2012 6:05 am

Francois Hollande walked up the steps of the Elysee
Palace in Paris and walked out Tuesday as France's first Socialist
president since 1995, taking the helm of a country worried about
Europe's future and pledging to make it a fairer place.
The 57-year-old rode to the presidency on a wave of
resurgent leftist sentiment amid Europe's debt woes and protests
against capitalism around the world. After ceremony steeped in
tradition, Hollande displayed his populist touch with a rain-soaked ride
up the Champs-Elysees avenue, standing tall in his vehicle's sunroof to
wave to crowds lining the streets before getting out for handshakes
with adoring crowds.

Hollande then left within hours on his first
diplomatic foray — to Berlin, following a postwar custom for new French
leaders to reach out to their German counterparts to solidify European
unity. He also named a moderate member of his Socialist party, Jean-Marc
Ayrault, as his prime minster.

Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are in
different camps, however, when it comes to solving Europe's debt
crisis. While new figures Tuesday showed the 17-nation eurozone has
avoided a new recession, thanks largely to Germany, new political
turmoil in Greece was reviving fears about the fate of their shared euro

Hollande is only the second Socialist president of
modern France, after Francois Mitterrand's 1981-1995 tenure. He was
elected to run this nuclear-armed nation earlier this month after voters
ousted incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy after only one term. Voters were
disappointed over Sarkozy's handling of France's economy — which has
high unemployment and low growth — and recoiled at his aggressive

Arriving Tuesday morning at the 18th-century Elysee
Palace, the traditional residence of French presidents, Hollande was
greeted by Sarkozy on the red-carpeted steps. The two held a 40-minute
private meeting that is traditionally the moment when the outgoing
president hands over the codes to France's nuclear arsenal.

Hollande was declared president after the head of
the constitutional court read out the final results of the May 6
election. The new president immediately acknowledged the challenges he
inherits: "a massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, degraded
competitiveness, and a Europe that is struggling to come out of crisis."

In his speech, Hollande promised to fight financial
speculation and "open a new path" in Europe. He has pushed back against
a European budget-cutting pact championed by Merkel and Sarkozy. "To
overcome the crisis that is hitting it, Europe needs plans. It needs
solidarity. It needs growth. To our partners, I will propose a new pact
that will tie the necessary reduction of public debt with the
indispensable stimulus of the economy," he said.

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