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‘France will come out stronger’

President Sarkozy looked on the bright side in his address last night and said France could count on him.

NICOLAS Sarkozy promised in his New Year speech that France would come out of the financial crisis stronger than ever.

He promised to “face up to my responsibilities concerning the crisis so that everyone that needs it is protected by the state,” adding that changes being made globally in response the situation would forge a “new world” and France was well-placed to be part of that.

With France holding the EU presidency, he said he had taken the initiative to coordinate the actions of the member states over the crisis as well as to organise a meeting of the leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful nations. He had wanted to make sure the world did not slip into a “fatal” attitude of “everyone for themselves.”

Sarkozy said he was thinking of all those who had suffered hardship or lost jobs, and, with measures now in place to save the banks, it was important to think about saving people’s jobs.

He said France was seeking a more “human” kind of capitalism, with more focus on entrepreneurship and less on speculation and penalties for “the unacceptable excesses that have scandalised you.”

The president referred to recent achievements at a European level, including resolution of the Georgia crisis, the creation of the Mediterranean Union, and agreements on climate change and energy. “We must continue – the world needs a strong Europe, independent and imaginative,” he said.

There would be major difficulties in 2009, he said, but he was “more determined than ever to face up to them, with a concern for justice and an obsession with results.” His “relaunch plan,” with an investment of e26 billion, would help, as would measures to support the car industry, which had been agreed together with pledges that the firms would stop moving production out of France.

“We have the means to confront the difficulties as long as we have solidarity with each other,” he said. “I will not let the most fragile struggle alone in the worst difficulties.” Coming changes to the benefits system – notably the new the RSA income support – would help. “Each person that takes a job again must be encouraged, valued, rewarded.”

He added: “From this crisis a new world will be born and we must prepare for it by working harder, investing more, pursuing reforms that there is no question of stopping, because they are vital to our future.” Reforms this year would include hospitals, professional training, local government structures, the criminal justice system and research. Referring to the fact he has put off expected lycée reforms, he said they were essential, especially to avoid failure of pupils in higher education, and improve the chances of young people from poorer backgrounds. However taking more time to consult and reflect was “not time lost for the reform, but time gained.”

The reforms would make France “more competitive, more innovative, while preserving our values of work, effort, merit, secularism and solidarity,” the president said.

France would continue to act across the world, including in the Middle East, where Sarkozy is going on Monday, because “it is France’s vocation to always seek the paths of peace and the act for human rights.”

He added: “The crisis obliges us to change faster and more profoundly. It is a test, but also a challenge…You can count on me.”

The speech can be viewed at Click here


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