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European elections

Published on May 27, 2014
Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic

Paris, May 26, 2014

My dear compatriots,

On Sunday, the European elections delivered their truth. It’s a painful one.

Six out of 10 French people didn’t go to vote. Of those who did, one in every four voted for the far right.

It’s true: anti-European parties made headway everywhere. But it was in France, a founding country of the European Union, the home of human rights, the land of freedoms, that the extreme right topped the poll by such a broad margin

Of course, this vote doesn’t wipe out all the other votes – those cast for [pro-] European parties in particular. But this vote exists and must be faced head-on. That’s what I am doing.

How should it be interpreted? This vote is a challenge to Europe, which worries people more than it protects them.

It signals a mistrust both in parties of government, of the majority, and in opposition parties. This vote signals a mistrust in politics, which – after so many years of crisis – is still calling on people to make efforts when the results aren’t yet visible.

It would be wrong – and I won’t do it – to close our eyes to this reality, because it reflects a fear of France’s decline, of globalization, and that feeling, expressed so many times, of being abandoned in the face of life’s hardships.

But the worst thing, the worst thing would be to abandon what makes up France, its values, its stature, its influence, its ambition and its place in Europe and the world.

This is a great country, and it can’t envisage its destiny as one of withdrawal, isolation and rejection. Europe can’t move forward without France, but France’s future is in Europe.

I’m European; my duty is to reform France and reorder Europe’s priorities. Europe has managed, particularly in the last two years, to overcome the crisis in the Euro Area – it was close to breaking up –, but at what price? The price of an austerity that has ended up discouraging people.

So tomorrow – no later than tomorrow – at the European Council, I’ll repeat that the priority is growth, employment and investment. Europe has become obscure – I’m aware of it –, distant and frankly incomprehensible, even for states. This can’t go on any longer.
Europe must be simple, clear, in order to be effective where it’s expected and withdraw where it’s not necessary.

Europe must prepare the future: new technologies, the energy transition and its own defence. It must protect its borders, its interests, its values, its culture. This is the mandate the next European Commission must be given, and I’ll make sure of that.

But in order to speak with a strong voice, France itself must be strong.

Over the past 10 years, it has lost its jobs, particularly in manufacturing, its competitiveness has been in decline and its trade deficit has grown bigger. Over the past 10 years, France, because of policies which weren’t conducted, has accumulated debts.

Europe isn’t asking us to carry out reforms. We must see them through for France, and this is what I decided, by entrusting Manuel Valls’ government with its road map. What’s it about?

It’s about employment, through support for businesses and the Responsibility Pact. It’s about purchasing power through tax cuts. It’s about social justice through the repeated, reaffirmed priority given to education. It’s about simplification, modernization, and this will be the whole challenge of the reform of our regional organization – large regions, with changes to our local and regional authorities, and this will be presented from next week.

We can’t deviate from this policy depending on the circumstances; it needs to be carried out steadfastly, tenaciously and courageously. But it also has to be implemented fast, because the French people can’t wait.

The future. Our institutions are sound. They give us the means to act and, in the long run – I’m convinced of this, but it will have to be demonstrated –, there will be success, success for everyone.

In times of hardship, up against challenges, people, the French people, must rally. What unites us is our commitment to democracy, to the Republic. What unites us above everything is our love of France, and this is the battle I’ll be waging throughout [the rest of] my five-year term.

Long live the Republic and long live France!./.