Hollande sworn in and flies to chancellor

Hollande sworn in and flies to chancellor

Hollande sworn in and flies to chancellor

Outgoing First Lady Bruni (L) welcomes Hollande’s companion Trierweiler in Paris.

François Hollande was sworn in as France’s first Socialist president in 17 years in a brief ceremony yesterday, ahead of a dash to Berlin to challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s austerity prescription for Europe. On his way to Berlin following the ceremony, Hollande’s plane turned back to Paris after being hit lightning. He has taken off from Paris in a second plane to meet Merkel.

In his inaugural speech to some 400 guests, Hollande said he would seek to amend a European pact to add growth-boosting measures to deficit-cutting policies that critics say are dampening the bloc’s growth prospects. “To overcome the crisis Europe needs projects, solidarity and growth,” he said in his inaugural speech. “I will propose to our partners a new pact to combine the necessary reduction in public debt with essential economic stimulus.” He also said he would press the need for Europe to protect its interests, especially regarding reciprocity in trade.

Arriving yesterday morning at the 18th-century Elysée Palace, the traditional residence of French presidents, Hollande was greeted by outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy on the red-carpeted steps. The two held a 40-minute private meeting that is traditionally the moment when the outgoing president hands over the codes to France’s nuclear arsenal.

‘Nicolas, merci!’

Hollande said he would run a “dignified,” “simple” and “sober” presidency and ensure Parliament plays its full role. “I will set the priorities, but I will not decide for everyone on everything and (be) everywhere,” Hollande said. Sarkozy left the palace hand-in-hand with his ex-model wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, had a last handshake on the palace steps with Hollande, and then was driven away. Former staffers gathered in the palace courtyard applauded loudly as Sarkozy left, and fans gathered at the Elysée gates waving signs reading “Nicolas, merci!”

Hollande was expected to name civil servant Pierre-René Lemas as his chief of staff later in the day, and Germanophile Jean-Marc Ayrault, who has good contacts in Berlin, is widely tipped to be named prime minister soon after that. The rest of the government was expected to be unveiled today, ahead of a first cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Hollande, who has four children but has never been married, was joined for the Elysée ceremonies and in his motorcade car yesterday by his partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff