Hollande asks French voters to judge him in five years

Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:41pm EST
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By Mark John and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande, grappling a sickly economy and dismal ratings, vowed to make France more competitive and urged voters to judge him on his long-term success in reviving growth and jobs, not on short-term mood swings.

In his first formal news conference after six months in office, the Socialist leader asked to be measured by his ability over five years to revitalize the country's ailing industry and halt a relentless rise in unemployment.

He brushed aside talk of strains with Germany over his economic policies, after German government sources told Reuters Berlin is concerned that measures announced last week to bolster industrial competitiveness do not go far enough.

"We speak to each other frankly, the chancellor (Angela Merkel) and I, but we don't teach each other lessons because Franco-German relations aren't based on lessons, except perhaps on the lessons of history," Hollande said.

"We in France more than others have to prove our seriousness and our competitiveness, more than Germany, and that's what we are doing. And Germany... has to prove its solidarity, which is not easy when a country has made such an effort to become what it is today."

In the only policy announcement of a marathon 143-minute performance, Hollande said France recognized a new opposition coalition formed to topple President Bashar al-Assad as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and would consider arming the rebels if they form a government in waiting.

Stressing that low French bond yields showed that markets believed his economic policies were credible, he said a move to fund tax rebates for companies with small rises in sales tax should bolster output while preserving consumer spending.

"Decline is not our destiny," he said, shrugging off a sharp fall in his approval rating.   Continued...

France's President Francois Hollande addresses a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer