President Sarkozy’s New Year’s greetings
Paris, December 31, 2008
My dear compatriots,
2008 is drawing to a close. It has been tough.
This is why I want first to think of those whom life has hit hard, those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, those who are victims of injustice and those who have to cope with the absence of a loved one.
I want to think of our soldiers who at this very moment are risking their lives for our security and for peace. I want to think of their families who are finding this separation painful. And even more especially of those mourning a son, husband, fiancé or father.
For all the French, this year has been difficult. The global economic and financial crisis has added its share of grief and suffering. Every one of you is enduring its consequences.
In the face of this crisis I realize the responsibility resting on me. I shall shoulder this responsibility so that the State affords protection to all those who need it and our country emerges stronger from this ordeal.
Ever since the difficulties emerged I have always told you the truth and acted. It was my duty to do so.
The worst response to this situation would have been for every country to take decisions without regard for the others. The initiatives I took in the name of the French Presidency of the European Union to coordinate the action of all Europeans and bring together the heads of State of the 20 biggest world powers in Washington have enabled the world to avoid sliding down the slope of "every man for himself" which would have been fatal. In the same way, doing nothing would be a mistake.
I have promised that the same causes would no longer produce the same effects. France has demanded changes to make capitalism more ethical, promote entrepreneurs rather than speculators and penalize the unacceptable excesses which have rightly scandalized you in order to restore the full importance of the human dimension in the economy. We shall get results at the forthcoming London summit on 2 April.
In a period of crisis such as the world hadn’t known for a very long time, I have tried to change Europe. I have always firmly believed that Europe mustn’t passively put up with things, but take action and protect. With the joint response to the financial crisis, resolution of the Georgia crisis, creation of the Union for the Mediterranean and agreement on climate and energy, we now have proof that this is possible. This was only a first step. We have to continue since I remain convinced that the world needs a strong, independent and imaginative Europe.
Great difficulties await us in 2009. I am fully aware of this. I am more determined than ever to address them, with the concern for fairness, and absolutely bent on getting results. After securing everyone’s savings thanks to the bank rescue plan, it’s now everyone’s jobs which have to be secured. The massive €26 billion economic investment revitalization plan decided on will contribute to this. It’s a substantial effort. Measures have been decided to save our car industry, in return for the manufacturers’ commitment to stop relocating production abroad. Other initiatives will be taken with the sovereign fund set up to maintain our industrial fabric.
We shall be pragmatic, attentive, and quick to react and, if more needs to be done, then we’ll do it, while keeping calm.
We have, my dear compatriots, the wherewithal to tackle the problems.
Provided we show solidarity with one another. I shall not let the most vulnerable fight alone in the severest of difficulties. In tough times, we need to display solidarity without discouraging work. This is why I wanted the creation of the RSA programme (1), which will implemented for the first time in 2009. From now on, every French person who starts a new job will be encouraged, feel valued and be rewarded.
For us to pull through, everyone will have to make efforts, since a new world will emerge from this crisis, one we must prepare ourselves for by working more, investing more, and pursuing the reforms which there is no question of halting because they are vital for our future.
During 2009, we shall reform the hospital sector, whose personnel display admirable devotion and skill, the vocational training schemes which are essential to ensure everyone has the opportunity of a job, our local government system which so much conservatism has made inextricable and the research on which our competitiveness depends.
I am thinking too of the secondary education reform needed to prevent the failure of so many of our children in higher education and the injustice depriving so many sons and daughters of families from modest backgrounds of the same opportunities as the others. I have asked for time for dialogue because taking the time to reflect together won’t slow the reform down. It will speed it up.
Finally, I am thinking of the reform of our penal procedure which is so important for protecting our individual freedoms more effectively – and the crying need for this emerged several times over the past year.
My dear compatriots, I shall conduct all these reforms with the Prime Minister, François Fillon, and the government, not because this is the normal way of proceeding, but because on them depend France’s ability to make a place for herself in the new world being built. This way we shall become more competitive and more innovative. And, at the same time, we shall safeguard the values which give us our distinct identity: work, effort, merit, laïcité [secularity] and solidarity, without which no effort is acceptable.
Finally, France will continue to act in Africa, in Asia and of course in the Middle East where I shall be going on Monday because it is France’s duty to seek everywhere the paths of peace, as well as to work for human rights.
My dear compatriots,
The crisis compels us to change faster and more radically. The crisis is an ordeal. It’s also a challenge. I want to take up this challenge with you. You can count on me.
We have some substantial strengths. When they are united the French people have sufficient energy, intelligence and courage for us together to have confidence in the future.
We are going to emerge stronger from this crisis.
From the depths of my heart I extend to each and every one of you my best wishes for 2009.
Long live the Republic,
And long live France./.
(1) revenu de solidarité active – inclusion income support comparable to the US EITC (earned income tax credit) and the British WFTC (working families’ tax credit)
Translation by the French Embassy in London