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No answer on ‘Closer’ scandal

President Hollande brushed off questions about his private life in his press conference today

PRESIDENT Hollande rebuffed questions about his relationship with his partner at his press conference this afternoon, merely saying he would clarify the situation before a planned visit to the USA on February 11.

Asked in the first question whether Valérie Trierweiler should still be considered the First Lady of France following the allegations in Closer that Mr Hollande is having an affair, he said it was “not the time and place” to answer that.

He added: “Each person can go through testing times in life and it’s the case for us at the moment. These are painful moments, but private matters should be dealt with in private.”

Asked by another journalist whether there should be changes to the role of First Lady, he said there was no official status of First Lady, it was a matter of custom, and it varied according to period and personality, “especially” under the previous presidency.

However he added: “What’s essential is transparency, and that funds spent on the president’s partner should be known and published and kept to a minimum.”

He was also asked if in the light of the Closer photos scandal his safety was not compromised, to which he answered: “Everywhere, at every moment, my security has been assured; everywhere I am protected.”

He said he may not go ahead with a prosecution of the magazine, “though as a citizen everything is urging me to take action against them”, bearing in mind that as president no one can prosecute him. However he said he felt “totally indignant” about the photo spread.

Mr Hollande was speaking on the occasion of his third major press event since taking office, which was televised live. He opened with a speech in which he outlined plans to boost France’s economy and talked about his foreign policy.

In particular he referred to his “responsibility pact”, which he said would lighten the cost of employment, in return for pledges on matters like recruitment and training. By 2017 he would abolish the family allowance part of the business social charges giving firms a greater profit margin, he said.

In the autumn he promised a law that would give “completely overhaul” tax for ordinary households, and he would make sure that he didn’t transfer any burden from companies to families, on the contrary, in the longer term he would aim for less tax.

He also spoke of encouraging young people to stay in France, of the importance of cutting public spending, and of closer alignment with Germany including on business tax regimes and on green energy initiatives.

He wanted France to be the engine at the heart of Europe, not a carriage, he said, and would be backing closer monetary and economic union and a banking union which he said would mean banks would support each other if they are in difficulty, without cost to taxpayers.

He would also be promoting reforms at local level, and in a few years’ time there may be changes in the number of regions of France.

A new law would be debated making it possible for people to opt for euthanasia where they are terminally ill and their suffering cannot be alleviated.

Photo: Screen shot from France 2

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