François Hollande’s New Year greetings to the French people
New Year greetings to the French people by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic
Paris, 31 December 2013
My dear compatriots,
Before extending my wishes to you, I’d like to speak to you about what we have in common and what we hold most dear: namely, our country.
2013 was intense and difficult.
Intense because France shouldered its responsibilities in serious international crises: Mali, Syria and, only recently, the Central African Republic.
Intense because Europe finally succeeded in overcoming the financial turmoil it had been experiencing since 2008.
Intense because the government embarked on reforms to rebalance our public accounts, improve companies’ competitiveness, modernize the labour market and consolidate our pensions, while taking into account the grueling nature of some jobs.
It gave priority to education – this was my commitment – and opened up marriage for all.
But 2013 was also difficult for many of you and for the country, because the crisis proved to be longer and deeper than we ourselves had predicted.
And we paid the price for this, with weak growth and a succession of redundancy programmes.
The very state of the country justified my asking you to make an effort.
I know what this represents.
Taxes have become heavy, too heavy, after accumulating for many years.
In 2013, unemployment remained at a high level, even though things have been improving in recent months.
The results are obviously taking a long time to appear, but they are there. And I have confidence in the choices I’ve made for the country.
I repeat to you this evening: I have only one priority, only one goal, only one commitment: namely, employment!
Because each job created means a little strength regained. Each unemployed person who starts working again means a family that can breathe, hope returning, spending power regained, social justice rediscovered.
In 2014, we’ll need everyone to play an active role to win this battle.
That’s why I’m offering companies a responsibility pact. It’s based on a simple principle: fewer burdens on work, fewer constraints on their activities and, in exchange, more recruitment and more industrial dialogue.
I also pay tribute to the employers and unions, who at the beginning of the year had already succeeded in reaching an agreement on making employment more secure, and who in the final months of the year reached an agreement on vocational training.
It will enable young people to integrate better into the workplace, unemployed people to get better support in finding employment and the least qualified people to be given new opportunities in companies.
That’s why a bill will be voted on at the beginning of 2014, because I want to translate this reform into reality as quickly as possible.
Finally, the nation must mobilize around its schools, which must combine excellence in access to knowledge with the requirement to combat inequalities.
2014 will also be the year of strong decisions. Three are essential, in my eyes.
Firstly, I want to reduce public spending. We must make savings wherever they’re possible. And I’m certain we can do better by spending less.
That goes for state, which must concentrate on its essential missions, but also for the local authorities, whose powers must be clarified; and for the welfare system, our most precious asset, which must end excesses – we’re aware of them – and abuses, because they call into question the very idea of solidarity.
We must spend less in order to reduce our deficit but also to be able, ultimately, to cut taxes. That’s the purpose of the tax reform we’ve embarked on. I myself will take responsibility for and monitor this programme of savings throughout the five-year term.
Second decision: I want to simplify the lives of each of you – for administrative procedures, for everyday activities, for creating companies, for developing investment. Everything must be made easier. It’s a condition for ensuring we can be more attractive, more modern, more flexible.
Finally, I want our country to accomplish its energy transition. Its goals are clear: to make energy savings, modernize our housing, combat global warming and support self-employed traders but also a new industry that is emerging thanks to the energy transition.
My dear compatriots,
France has all the strengths to succeed. We’re a country of invention, innovation and creation in every field. I’m thinking of the magnificent feat of developing an artificial heart, the first time the technique has been developed in the world. I’m also thinking of transport, with electric vehicles; agriculture, with green chemistry; digital technology, where we’re also the best; and culture, in which we excel.
So France will be strong if we can agree on what’s essential, namely the economic, industrial, productive destiny of our country over the next 10 years.
France will be strong if it continues to show solidarity, if it builds more housing, reduces poverty and better integrates people who are disabled or dependent.
France will be strong if it’s adamant about respect for its rules: security, which is the guarantee of freedom; the independence of the courts, which means impartiality; and laïcité [secularism] (1), which is the condition for our coexistence.
I’ll be uncompromising against any failings, against racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination.
The Republic is non-negotiable. The laws are non-negotiable. The French system is no less non-negotiable, because it’s what enables us to make progress, generation after generation.
We also uphold these values, all these values of the Republic, around the world. France is always at the forefront in serving peace, and I’m proud of it. That is its honour. That is its duty.
That’s why we intervened in Mali, to fight terrorism. It’s why we’re acting to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It’s why we’re present in the Central African Republic to save human lives and prevent children being cut to pieces, as has occurred; so that, everywhere, we can uphold human rights, women’s dignity, the cultural exception and the protection of the planet.
I pay tribute to all those who dedicate themselves to this, and particularly the soldiers who are deployed, sometimes sacrificing their own lives. Nine of them – I repeat, nine – have fallen in the service of France this year. I pay my respects to their memory and reaffirm my support for their families.
My dear compatriots from metropolitan and overseas France,
In the spring you will be asked to vote in two elections.
The local elections, to appoint the municipal councillors who will work in partnership with the state to get our country on the move, but in a framework which has to be clarified. A new act on decentralization will give more responsibilities to councillors, and it will simplify our country’s territorial organization, which has become hard to understand and costly.
As for the appointment of the new European Parliament, it must provide an opportunity to promote a political majority which will have to be geared to employment and solidarity, not austerity and national selfishness.
We won’t build the France of tomorrow by dismantling Europe. It is by being strengthened that Europe will afford us more protection. And I won’t turn a blind eye to those who deny Europe’s future, who want to return to the old borders, thinking that they’ll shield them, and who want to exit the euro. I’ll follow on from all the generations which have fought for Europe. So in the spring I’ll be taking initiatives with Germany to give more power to our EU.
My dear compatriots,
More than ever, we’ve got to love France. Nothing is worse than self-denigration. Clear-sightedness has never precluded pride.
France doesn’t just have a great history – and we’ll have good reason to celebrate it in 2014 with the centenary of the Great War. France represents promise, a future, an opportunity.
Yes, being French in today’s world presents an opportunity. And, bolstered by this firm belief, I send you my warmest wishes for the new year.
I wish each of you, everyone, success.
At this moment, I’m not forgetting those who are in difficulty, who live in isolation, are in poor accommodation and even homeless.
We have a duty of solidarity towards them.
I’m also thinking of our fellow citizens being held hostage. One of them, Father Vandenbeusch, has just been released. I’m happy for him and his family. But there are still six others being detained.
For the sake of the fraternity which unites us, I’ll do everything for their release.
These are my wishes for the new year: the battle for jobs must be France’s success.
Long live the Republic!
Long live France!./.
(1) laïcité goes beyond the concept of secularism, embracing the strict neutrality of the state.