(OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Whenever any centre-left leader comes to power in Europe, there are always questions over who he or she will be compared to. Take François Hollande: only days after his election to the Elysée, commentators were already wondering whether he might be France’s Gerhard Schröder. The hope was that he could reform France’s labour market from the left, just as the former chancellor did in Germany in the early 2000s.
Matteo Renzi, who is set to become Italy’s youngest ever prime minister, is bound to draw such comparisons. When Time magazine chose to feature the then 34-year old mayor of Florence on its front page in February 2009, the US weekly asked whether he might be Italy’s Barack Obama. In an interview to the Italian daily Il Foglio, Mr Renzi compared himself to Tony Blair, saying he wanted to transform the Italian left just as Britain’s three-times prime minister did with the Labour party. The media-savvy Mr Blair certainly remembered Mr Renzi’s aspirations when he called on Europe’s leaders to “get fully behind” Italy’s new leader. Read more
News that François Hollande had a meeting recently with Peter Hartz, architect of Germany’s labour market reforms of a decade ago, has caused a frisson in Paris where all the talk (apart from that about his love life) is about the president’s public embrace of social democratic reforms with a distinctly German flavour.
The Elysée Palace denied reports that Mr Hartz, who led former chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s landmark reform programme, was acting as an adviser to Mr Hollande.
But it acknowledged that the president had hosted the former Volkswagen executive for an hour-long informal meeting two months ago. Read more
Can Hollande get the French economy back on track?
By an unfortunate coincidence, President François Hollande’s efforts to relaunch his presidency with an announcement of bold economic reforms have coincided with the revelation that he appears to be having an affair with an actress. Meanwhile, the economy continues to struggle, and the government is engaged in an effort to block performances by the controversial comic Dieudonné. Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris Bureau chief, and Ben Hall, world news editor, to discuss whether France is in crisis, or whether it’s business as usual
When President Francois Hollande steps up to the podium in the splendid Elysee Palace at 16.30 Paris time, 15.30 GMT on Tuesday for the third formal press conference of his 20-month old presidency, the first question on everyone’s lips is likely to be about the revelations of his apparent affair with a film actress.
How he deals with this embarrassing issue –Valerie Trierweiler, his partner and France’s first lady, remains in hospital recovering from the shock – will inevitably overshadow an event originally intended to concentrate on the economy.
But the financial markets, business leaders and France’s European partners will nonetheless be watching most closely what Mr Hollande has to say about his New Year resolution to inject some much-needed vitality into the French recovery, which is lagging behind those of the country’s biggest neighbours. Read more
François Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler. AP
When Bill Clinton was being impeached over the Monica Lewinsky affair, I remember wishing that the Americans could be a bit more like the French – and leave the salacious details of their president’s private life out of the public gaze. But now, as the story of President François Hollande’s affair gets ever messier, I’m beginning to wonder whether the French might have to become a bit more like the Americans. Or, to be more specific, whether this strict French insistence on respect for the president’s private life can, or should, survive.
The revelation that the president’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler, has taken the news of his affair so badly that she has been hospitalised has immediately injected a darker note into some of the press coverage. Initial reports, particularly in the English press, were characterised by plenty of sniggering. But, perhaps, this isn’t a hilarious French farce, after all. Read more
France’s increasingly assertive extreme right has provoked new outrage with the publication on Wednesday of a magazine cover comparing Christiane Taubira, the (black) justice minister, to a monkey.
The country’s mainstream parties, otherwise at each others’ throats in the current fraught political climate, united to condemn Minute, which splashed a picture of Ms Taubira alongside the caption: “Clever as a monkey, Taubira gets her banana back.”
(In French slang, banana means a smile.)
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault demanded legal action against the magazine, a call quickly followed by the opening of a preliminary inquiry by the Paris courts, while Manuel Valls, interior minister in the socialist government, said he was investigating the possibility of blocking its distribution. Jean-Francois Copé, leader of the centre right UMP party, backed the government’s stance. Read more
Where does President François Hollande go from here?
In this edition of World Weekly, Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief and Ben Hall, world news editor and former Paris correspondent, to focus on France, where President François Hollande’s approval ratings have dropped to a sorry 23%. The President’s plummeting popularity comes against the background of a weak economy and controversy over the deportation of a Roma schoolgirl. So where does Hollande go from here, and should we be worried by the momentum building behind the National Front ahead of the municipal and European elections next spring?
François Hollande (Getty)
François Hollande’s Socialist government is desperate to get across a message, not least to foreign investors, that France’s economy is in recovery mode and that it is now set to start reducing the heavy tax burden it has heaped on companies.
This sunny prospect received a cold shower on Tuesday in the form of a survey of American businesses in France.
Although respondents saw some improvement in economic conditions over the next two years after a worse-than-anticipated 2013, only 19 per cent expected to increase employment, while 26 per cent said they would be reducing jobs.
More worrying for Mr Hollande, the survey showed a sharp slide in the perception of France as a good place to invest.