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Hollande hits back during TV address

President takes a combative tone as he defends series of controversial reforms in New Year message to the nation

PRESIDENT Francois Hollande came out fighting in his traditional New Year’s Eve message, even as he acknowledged that 2014 had been a “tough” year for France.

In a nine-minute address to the nation, Mr Hollande took a combative tone as he insisted that the country was ready for change.

“This is a message of confidence and determination that I address you tonight,” he said, before defending a series of controversial reforms - including the Responsibility Pact, which comes into force today, territorial changes, and economic reforms.

He admitted the difficulties his government and the country had faced in 2014, but defended the decisions he had made and said that he stood his ground and “firmly followed the course that I set”.

“2015 should be a year of courage, action and solidarity. We must go forward, be bold, and refuse the status quo,” he declared.

He welcomed the territorial reforms that will come into force this year, which will see the number of regions in France cut from 22 to 13.

Mr Hollande went on to describe the economic reforms included in the so-called Macron law as “a facelift for our society”.

The law, named after France’s economic minister Emmanuel Macron, includes relaxing a ban on Sunday store openings; and deregulating certain professions, such as notaires.

Mr Hollande also recognised divisions in French society. In a nod to the rise of the Front National, which made major gains in both the municipal and European elections in France this year at the expense of the Socialists, Mr Hollande said that he “will fight to the end conservatism and populism”, and called for France to “defend secularism, the republican order, and the dignity of people”.

And he looked ahead to 2015, when Paris will host the UN climate conference. He said: “We must lead the world and adopt a declaration on the responsibility of humanity to protect the planet. I will do everything to make the conference a success.”

Photo: Screengrab / France TV

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