President sets out his stall for 2012

Youth crime, unemployment and dependency of the elderly are the priorities of the last 15 months of his mandate

YOUTH crime, unemployment and dependency of the elderly are the priorities of the last 15 months of his mandate said President Sarkozy, probed by ordinary French people on TF1's Paroles de Français.

Questioned by a panel of nine selected by the channel from people who had featured in its news reports, the president acknowledged some errors, such as the recent scandal over ministers' holidays being paid for by foreign governments.

However he dwelt mainly on tasks for the months ahead.

He said he wanted to find solutions to youth delinquency, recidivism and "hyperviolence", and hoped to have a wide-ranging political debate on the issue before taking action by summer. Also on justice, he announced an extra 5,000 prison places, on top of an existing plan to increase capacity by 40 per cent by 2018.

Mr Sarkozy said €500 million was being allocated to find solutions to longterm unemployment. These included creating more favourable conditions for apprentices, for example in access to housing, and building dozens of apprenticeship centres.

However economies would have to be found from other ministries.

Regarding dependency in old age, the president said a fifth branch of social security, specifically for this problem, would be created by the summer.

However it is still not clear how this will be funded, whether, for example, by increased social charges, a new form of insurance or deductions from the inheritance of people who did not help elderly relatives.

The website of political magazine Marianne said the programme gave the president an easy ride. Some of the day's headlines, such as striking judges or the revolt against Egypt's president ("a recent host of Prime Minister François Fillon") went unmentioned, they said.

Mr Sarkozy reportedly congratulated himself on the programme, telling UMP MPs that, with 8.3 million viewers, he did better than the France-Brazil football friendly broadcast from the Stade de France two days earlier.

A poll by market research company Harris Interactive however found that 54 per cent of viewers thought he was "unconvincing", 25 per cent very much so.