Struggling Hollande vows to go on the ‘offensive’

French President François Hollande tried to steady the ship on Thursday when he face the media for his scheduled press conference. The president said he be more on the "offensive" in his second year as head of state.

Struggling Hollande vows to go on the 'offensive'
Screenshot Europe1

Embattled President Francois Hollande vowed Thursday to "go on the offensive" in his second year to tackle France's economic woes after the country fell into recession amid rising unemployment.

Speaking during a wide-ranging press conference, Hollande also vowed new initiatives to reform Europe and push for growth in the 17-nation eurozone.

"I am well aware that there is a recession, that unemployment is rising," Hollande told hundreds of gathered journalists and officials.

"Year Two must be about going on the offensive," he said, maintaining a promise to reverse the rise in unemployment by the end of year.

"There can be no hope possible in our country as long as unemployment has not begun to decline," he said.

"Everything must be done so that the measures that have already been taken can be boosted to reduce unemployment by the end of the year."

Hollande also promised to launch an initiative to kickstart reforms in Europe and bring closer political union within the bloc in two years.

"If Europe does not advance it will fall or even be wiped out from the world map… My duty is to bring Europe out of its lethargy," he said.

The first anniversary of Hollande's inauguration on Wednesday was marred by news that the French economy had fallen into recession in the first three months of 2013 after two consecutive quarters of contraction.

The Socialist leader is under increasing pressure to address France's declining economic fortunes – blamed by many on a lack of competitiveness – and to tackle a 16-year high in unemployment.

Elected on a wave of optimism last year, Hollande has seen his approval ratings fall further and faster than any other president in modern French history.

Hollande is facing mounting pressure for a cabinet reshuffle, with even his Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius complaining this week of the finance ministry lacking a proper "boss".

Hollande insisted a reshuffle was "not on the agenda".

The recession has been blamed on falling household consumption, which suffered its most significant drop in 30 years in 2012, and a fall in exports in the first quarter of this year.

Hollande outlined four measures to reform Europe, including the creation of an "economic government" for Europe that would have a designated chief and meet every month.

He also vowed to push for the immediate release of six billion euros in European funds for youth jobs, to press for European investment in industry and to promote a coordinated energy policy.

Hollande defended his first year in office, saying the government had laid the groundwork for reining in public finances and for re-starting growth.

He also paid homage to French soldiers serving in Mali, where Paris sent troops earlier this year to intervene against Islamist rebels who had seized control of the north.

Hollande said the intervention had "made France loved in all of Africa" and highlighted "the role of a great nation that has the power to have its influence felt in the world."

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