Hollande takes over at Elysée

Official changeover starts very busy day for new president as he completes formalities and then heads to meet Merkel

FRANCOIS Hollande has officially become the new French president this morning after a chat at the Elysée with Nicolas Sarkozy and a short inauguration ceremony in the palace's Salle des Fêtes

After receiving official briefing notes, the chain as Grand Master of the Order of the Légion d'honneur - and the codes for the nuclear strike force - Hollande accompanied the outgoing president and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy to the Cour d'Honneur to leave the palace.

At 10.45 a 21-gun salute in front of the Hôtel des Invalides will mark the changeover.

It will be the start of a five-year term as the seventh president of the Fifth Republic and its second Socialist in power, after François Mitterrand.

It is also the start of a very busy day for Hollande who will head off in the afternoon to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks on the future of the Euro-zone - and potential confrontation over their very different points of view.

He has spoken of the need for "compromise" after many of the politicians who agreed the latest Euro-zone deal faced electoral reverses; including Sarkozy. Merkel had openly called for Sarkozy to be re-elected.

Hollande's call for growth as the way out of the crisis and the need to renegotiate the deal to include measures to stimulate growth comes as official figures this morning revealed that France had seen zero growth in the first quarter of 2012, while Germany had seen 5%.

But first Hollande heads to the Champs-Elysées at 11.15 in an open-top Citroën DS5 to relight the flame at the memorial to the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.

He then returns to the Elysée for a private lunch and then a ceremony paying hommage to Jules Ferry, a 19th century educational reformer, and radioactivity pioneer Marie Curie. There has been some controversy over the decision to honour Jules Ferry as he was a strong supporter of colonialisation and has been called a racist.

Around 15.00 Hollande will be at the Hôtel de Ville where he will be welcomed by Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë and will also greet his former partner Ségolène Royal, their four children and the three children of his partner, Valerie Trierweiller.

Before flying to Berlin at 16.00 he is due to name his new prime minister, with close Hollande confidentes saying this morning that Nantes mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault had been chosen. He hosts his first cabinet meeting on Thursday and then flies to Washington to meet US President Barack Obama.