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News Analysis: Hollande's debut bold or dull on int'l stage?


08:29, May 30, 2012

PARIS, May 28 (Xinhua) -- As Francois Hollande came to the Elysee Palace, he told the French people he would honor his campaign promises to defend France's interests and to uphold the European policy to promote growth and create jobs.

Just days into his presidency, the 57-year-old socialist president started working to transform a political rhetoric into concrete policies with a series of meetings in Berlin and the United States, the first milestones of his term.

Hollande faced a challenging diplomatic test in making his first appearance on the international stage, after criticism on his placid manner and indecision overshadowed his attempt to lead the 65 million-population country.

"Questions hang over Hollande's status and ability to impose his ideas. But I think he has satisfactory image and was not ridiculous during his first meetings. So, for the moment, there is no deception of French people," said Eric Bonnet, an analyst from BVA pollster.

"He succeeded in reassuring the French and showed that he holds to his promises of growth recovery and early French troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. We'll know in June if he'll win the duel between France and Germany over the euro bonds, which is so important for him," he told Xinhua.

Hollande made it clear in Berlin that he stands firm to forge a growth pact that helps cut deficit and solve the eurozone debt crisis on which Germany should not have the only say.

The bet seems to be won. Hollande's focus on growth garnered support of southern European countries which are already on the verge of a default.

As a further sign of Hollande's promising start, German Chancellor Angela Merkel who refused to receive the Socialist during the election campaign, pledged to work with the new French leader for a joint growth strategy expected to be presented at a European Union summit in late June.

The new occupant of the Elysee Palace claimed victory after the G8 Camp David summit held earlier in May in the United States where leaders of the world's most industrial countries said in a communique their "imperative is to promote growth and jobs."

"It was my first big international meeting in the name of France. I had the objective to put growth at the heart of the debate," Hollande said after the G8 meeting concluded on May 19.

"I think the G8 was fruitful and enabled us to send a twin message. There will not be growth without confidence and there will be no confidence without growth," he added.

In the view of former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Hollande "made his mark" and "did what's expected from the President of the Republic."

"We saw a temperament. He was conscious of collegiality, collective action, and remained firm on principles and requirements it imposes. But it is too early to see if that diplomacy works," De Villepin said on local broadcaster Europe1.

In Chigao, Hollande said at a NATO summit that he intended to keep his promise to withdraw French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, two years ahead of the alliance's plan.

The French president paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan last Friday to announce that "around 2,000 French combat troops would be home by the end of 2012."

However, he pointed out that France would continue to support Afghanistan in civilian fields including health, education, culture, agriculture and also assist its defense and interior ministries in training.

"We can say that he has successfully entered the international scene because he did not make any wrong step. He was relaxed, jovial and confident, perhaps a little too sure of himself," said Alain Duhamel, a political analyst.


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