PRESIDENT Hollande marked his first year in office with a defence of his record so far, a promise that his government will go on the offensive to do better in Year 2 and a joke about his record fall in the opinion polls.
He said getting people back to work was still his priority and that, despite hitting record unemployment of 3,224,600 in March, the results would start to turn by the end of this year. He cautioned: “The battle can only be won in time if growth returns”.
Hollande turned to Europe as the driving force to create growth and jobs and demanded a plan to give six million young people their first jobs and to prepare for massive changes in energy use.
The EU should also create an “economic government with a real president that meets every month” to “balance tax regimes and social welfare upwards” and “to fight tax fraud”.
Those in jobs will also face working longer before getting their pensions as he said he “could not ignore a €20billion pension budget deficit by 2020”, adding: “As we live longer, so we must work a little longer.”
Businesses and unions will meet with other social partners on June 20-21 with the aim of presenting a new law in September aimed at clearing “inequalities between regimes” or those that affect women.
One unexpected announcement was on bureaucratic inertia where he revealed a turnaround in policy on the public’s dealings with officials. In future, if there was no administrative response that would imply a project had been approved – and not that it had been rejected.
A law dating from 1864 said that if the administration had not responded within two months that amounted to a rejection. Some planning applications are already treated on this basis but a new law from September would force bureaucrats to deal with projects rather than shelve them.
Plans to give non-EU foreigners the vote in local elections would be brought in after the 2014 municipal elections, he said, as there was strong opposition from the Right and he did not want to be seen to be forcing it through.
Hollande said he was “president at the worst time” and said of his record unpopularity that it “was not my objective”, adding “I did not set out to be popular, but to make the right decisions.”
What mattered, he said, “was the state of the country at the end of his term of office”.