President François Hollande’s Inauguration Speech
Paris, May 15 2012.
On this day of my investiture into the highest office of the state, I send the French people a message of confidence.
We are a great country which, through its history, has always been able to brave the ordeals and take up the challenges facing it. Every time, it succeeded in doing so by remaining what it is. Always through high-mindedness and openness. Never through self-abasement or by self-absorption.
The mandate I received from the French people on 6 May is to put France back on her feet, in a fair way. Open up a new way in Europe. Contribute to world peace and the protection of the planet.
I appreciate the fact that we are under great pressure: massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, damaged competitiveness and a Europe struggling to overcome the crisis.
But I say this right here: there’s no inevitability, if a common desire motivates us, a clear direction is set and we fully mobilize our strengths and assets. These are significant: the productiveness of our workforce, the excellence of our researchers, the dynamism of our entrepreneurs, the work of our farmers, the quality of our public services, the global influence of our culture and language, without forgetting our demographic vitality and the eagerness of our young people.
The first condition for new-found confidence is the nation’s unity. Our differences mustn’t become divisions, or our diversity discord. The country needs calm, reconciliation and to come together. It’s the President of the Republic’s role to help bring this about. To enable all French people, without exception, to live by the same values, those of the Republic. This is my pressing duty. Whatever our age, whatever our firm beliefs, wherever we live – in mainland France or in overseas France, in our towns and cities or in our rural areas, we are France. Not one France set against another, but a reunited France with the same community of destiny.
And I’ll reaffirm on every occasion our inviolable principles of laïcité [secularism] (1), just as I will fight racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.
Confidence is also about setting the example.
As President of the Republic, I shall fully shoulder the exceptional responsibilities of this high office. I shall set the priorities, but I shall not decide everything or on behalf of everyone. In accordance with the constitution, the government will determine and conduct the nation’s policy. The rights of parliament will be respected. The judiciary will have every guarantee of independence. State power will be exercised with dignity but simplicity. With great ambition for the country. And scrupulous sobriety of conduct. The state will be impartial, because it is the property of all French people and does not belong to those who have been given responsibility for it. The rules on the appointment of public officials will be strict. And loyalty, competence and a sense of the general interest will be the sole criteria in determining my choice of the state’s most senior servants. France has the good fortune to have an excellent civil service. I want to express to it my gratitude and my expectations of it and each of its members. Confidence lies in democracy itself. I believe in local democracy and intend to revitalize it through a new act of decentralization that gives new freedom to develop our territories.
I believe in social democracy, and new areas of negotiation will be opened up to the two sides of industry, whom I shall respect – both the employees’ representatives and professional organizations. I believe in citizens’ democracy, that of voluntary organizations and civic engagement, which will be supported for the millions of volunteers who dedicate themselves to it.
Confidence depends on the justice of decisions. Justice in the very concept of wealth creation. It’s time to put production back above speculation, future investment above present satisfaction, sustainable employment above immediate profit. It’s time to embark on a transition on energy and the environment. It’s time to push back a new frontier for technological development and innovation. But justice, too, in the way the essential effort is distributed. There cannot be sacrifices for ever more people and privileges for ever fewer. This will be the thrust of the reforms the government will carry out, with a concern to reward merit, work and initiative and to discourage exorbitant income and remuneration.
Justice will be the criterion on which each public decision will be taken.
Finally, the Republic must have confidence in young people. I shall put them back in their rightful place: first place. That’s the basis of my commitment to the Republic’s schools, because their mission is vital to our country’s cohesion and the success of our economy. That’s the desire that drives me to modernize professional training, support young people into work and fight job insecurity. That’s also the admirable idea of civic service that I intend to revive.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today many peoples – above all in Europe – are watching us expectantly.
To overcome the crisis that is hitting it, Europe needs projects. It needs solidarity. It needs growth. I shall propose to our partners a new pact combining the necessary reduction in public debt with the essential stimulation of the economy. And I shall express to them the need for our continent to protect, in such an unstable world, not only its values but also its interests, in the name of the reciprocity principle in trade.
France is a nation engaged in the world. Through her history, her culture, her values of humanism, universality and freedom, she holds a unique place in it. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen has reached every corner of the globe. We must be its guardians and stand alongside all those democratic forces in the world that swear by its principles. France will respect all peoples; she will be true everywhere to her destiny, which is to uphold the freedom of peoples, the honour of the oppressed, the dignity of women.
At this moment, when I bear responsibility for our country’s destiny and for representing it in the world, I pay tribute to my predecessors – all those before me who have held the responsibility of leading the Republic: Charles de Gaulle, who put his prestige at the service of France’s greatness and sovereignty, Georges Pompidou, who made the industrial imperative a national challenge, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who relaunched society’s modernization, François Mitterrand, who did so much for freedoms and social progress, Jacques Chirac, who marked his commitment to the values of the Republic, and Nicolas Sarkozy, to whom I extend my best wishes for the new life that opens up before him.
Long live the Republic.
Long live France.
(1) Laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.