The Two-Way
10:34 am
Tue May 15, 2012

Francois Hollande Sworn In As New President Of France

Francois Hollande took the oath of office today in pouring rain as France's latest leader and lost no time in turning to the country's economic problems. One of his first acts was to cut his salary by nearly a third. Now he's flying to Germany to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel to talk about an unpopular European austerity program championed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Their meeting should be interesting.

The pact calls for "strict budgetary discipline" according to Spiegel, and Germany is its biggest supporter. Hollande opposes it, unless it can be amended with proposals for growth; these reflect his view that austerity should be coupled with spending on certain investments. It's something Merkel's not likely to support, says the Economist.

Back at home, Hollande not only cut his own salary but those of his ministers; capped wages of top leaders at some large companies; and froze government spending, Spiegel adds. He's vowing to impose new taxes on the wealthy and on banks, lower the retirement age for some workers and cut back on nuclear energy, notes the AP.

But Hollande's leading plan appears to be stimulus spending to help France climb out of its growing debt; the BBC says he'd launch big infrastructure projects paid for by bonds. Critics say France shouldn't go into more debt to solve its red ink.

The new president shrugged off his first challenge of the day: as he perched out the sunroof of the car driving him up the Champs-Elysees, he was soaked to the skin by heavy rain. Reuters says while wet through, Hollande continued on to the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.