Francois Hollande Begins Term As French President
The BBC reported that by accepting his five-year term at a ceremony in central Paris' Elysee Palace, Hollande steps into a mess of political and economic uncertainty in the country.
The new president, who will soon name his prime minister and head to Berlin to begin establishing a diplomatic relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said he looked forward to opening "a new path in Europe."
From the BBC:
Outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy shook hands with his successor in the palace's courtyard before leading him inside for a private meeting, at which France's nuclear launch codes were handed over.
The new leader asked that the inauguration ceremony be kept as low-key as possible, and invited just three dozen or so personal guests to join the 350 officials attending. Neither Mr Hollande's children nor those of his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, were there.
In his first presidential speech, Mr Hollande said he wished to deliver a "message of confidence".
"My mandate is to bring France back to justice, open up a new path in Europe, contribute to world peace and preserve the planet."
The new president said he was fully aware of challenges facing France, which he summarised as "huge debt, weak growth, reduced competitiveness, and a Europe that is struggling to emerge from a crisis".
The BBC took an in-depth look at those challenges in something of an FAQ piece, giving an overview of what lies ahead for Hollande.
Just how weak is the French economy?
GDP showed no growth in the first quarter of 2012, according to official statistics agency Insee. This mirrors the eurozone as a whole. Some analysts expect French GDP to start contracting in the second quarter of 2012, raising fears of a recession. Mr Hollande has built his programme around an expectation of 0.5% growth for the first year, rising to 1.7% in 2013. However, some expect him to lower these forecasts in a budget review scheduled for July.
How does Mr Hollande aim to stimulate growth?
He is proposing large infrastructure projects, to be paid for through bonds. Critics argue that you cannot cure Europe's debt crisis by increasing debt further still. Mr Hollande is equally committed to cutting France's budget deficit from 4.4% this year to 3% in 2013 - an ambitious target given that the European Commission forecasts it will fall to only 4.2%, and some economists predict a figure of 4.6%.
How will the books be balanced?
Partially through new taxes on banking and higher income tax, including a startling 75% proposal for those earning more than 1m euros. However, Mr Hollande has qualified his plans by saying an audit of France's bank accounts will be carried out before any of his campaign promises are enacted.
The future of relations between Germany and France has been of particular interest. In the past, the two have been close allies, but the debt crisis put a significant damper on things between former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel—Europe's "odd couple."
An advisor to Hollande told the BBC that they expected things only to improve between the nations. "They are both very human people: uncomplicated, easy going and unpretentious," the advisor said of Hollande and Merkel. "They both have a keen sense of humor. People who know them feel they will gel better than Merkel did with Sarkozy."