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One year on, economic reality bites for France's Hollande

Friday, May 03, 2013 - 02:48

May 3 - One year into the job, French President Francois Hollande's popularity rating is around 25%, after the sharpest fall for any president in over half a century. Joanna Partridge reports how Hollande's first year in power has been marked by a stagnating economy and unemployment reaching an all time high - and fears there may be worse to come.

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A year ago, Francois Hollande rolled into power in France, promising to deliver change. But 12 months on, the French economy only seems to have got worse. And the Socialist President's personal popularity rating has slid to around 25% - the sharpest fall of any in over 50 years. SOUNDBITE: FRENCH PRESIDENT, FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING (French): "I'm not counting because you don't measure people's aspirations, demands or even their anger, according to the number of people in the street." The EU predicts France's economy will shrink by 0.1% this year. And unemployment has hit a record high of over 3.2 million. The auto industry has been hit hard - these tyre workers lost their jobs, as did staff at PSA Peugeot Citroen, with Renault planning cuts too. Frederic Dabi from the IFOP polling institute says the French thought things would be different under Hollande. SOUNDBITE: FREDERIC DABI , ASSISTANT DIRECTOR GENERAL, FRANCE, IFOP POLLING INSTITUTE, SAYING (French): "They hoped for a change in their daily lives, about micro-economic questions and social questions and that's where they feel it's going wrong, that there hasn't been a change but rather a sense of continuity, that the economic crisis has dragged on in France." Opposition parties have accused Hollande of focussing on social issues - such as legalising gay marriage - rather than economic problems. Hollande is stuck between businesses calling for lower taxes and labour costs, while his euro zone partners still want him to make budget cuts. Hollande was arguably the first European leader to start the calls for growth not austerity. Many others have taken up that mantra since - like new Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. France's lack of reform has been criticised by some key politicians in Germany. Jan Randolph from IHS Global Insight says in fact Paris needs to become more like Berlin. SOUNDBITE: Jan Randolph, Director of Sovereign Risk Analysis, IHS Global Insight, saying (English): "There has been an agreement at the beginning of the year, in January, the unions and the corporate sector employers have agreed on new flexi-security measures of the kind that Germany adopted in its reform programme and that is an important step forward. More importantly there is co-operation now between employers and employees and the unions. It's a big baby step, but that's it, there's still a lot more to do." Hollande doesn't have the same relationship as his predecessor with Germany's Angela Merkel. And there's talk France is losing its voice in Europe. Hollande insists results of his reforms will show during the rest of his 5-year presidency. But facing growing social unrest, it will be critical for Hollande that the French economy shows signs of recovery sooner rather than later.

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One year on, economic reality bites for France's Hollande

Friday, May 03, 2013 - 02:48