Hollande sworn in as new French president
France officially has a new president after Francois Hollande was sworn in on Tuesday.
PARIS - Francois Hollande was sworn in as France's first Socialist president in 17 years in a brief ceremony on Tuesday ahead of a dash to Berlin to challenge German Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity prescription for Europe.
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.
In a veiled swipe at outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, who some faulted for being all-controlling and too impulsive, 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 and his wife, singer and ex-model Carla Bruni, left the Elysee Palace under a bright sky but dark clouds blotted out the sun and rain poured down when the new president left for the traditional inauguration drive in an open-topped car.
Soaked to the skin, Hollande grinned at bystanders as his car crawled up the Champs Elysees avenue to the Arc du Triomphe, where he relit the flame at the memorial of the Unknown Soldier and laid a wreath.
Hollande is expected to name civil servant Pierre-Rene 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.
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, a friend of Hollande's for three decades, all but gave away Ayrault's nomination, telling RTL radio he thought the favourite named in French media "would be named soon". He later said he regretted being so indiscreet.
The rest of the government should be unveiled on Wednesday, ahead of a first cabinet meeting on Thursday, before Hollande flies to Washington to meet President Barack Obama and attend G8 and NATO summits at Camp David and Chicago.
Hollande, whose election comes as the euro zone is teetering back into crisis over fears about Greece's future in the single currency, will give his first presidential news conference in Berlin in the evening, flanked by the centre-right Merkel.
His comments will be keenly watched by financial markets eager for reassurance that his push to tack pro-growth instruments onto Europe's budget discipline treaty will not sour the start of his relationship with Merkel.
"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.