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Hollande basks in good vibes from Swiss visit

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Hollande basks in good vibes from Swiss visit
Swiss president Sommaruga with Hollande. Photo: DFJP
10:27 CEST+02:00
French President François Hollande may be having difficulties in his own country but he received a generally warm response during his historic two-day visit to Switzerland.

Hollande made himself popular from the outset of his trip, declaring in Bern that a tax evasion row between France and the Swiss that has clouded relations was “behind us”.

The French president hailed the Swiss “determination” to make the financial system more transparent and to share information to crack down on tax evasion.

He later praised the Swiss economic “miracle” during a stop at Lausanne’s Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL).

“The Swiss miracle, the Swiss secret which is not banking, your brand is innovation, technology and creation,” Hollande said.

He also had positive words about the Swiss apprenticeship and educational system and its environmental businesses.

Hollande took advantage of his trip, only the third official visit to Switzerland by a French president in a century, to drive home the importance of the freedom of movement agreement between the Swiss and the European Union.

He promised to help Switzerland negotiate with Brussels on the issue after Swiss voters last February voted to cap immigration in apparent contravention of the agreement.

Hollande found himself in friendly political company, accompanied by Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, a socialist party member, welcomed by Bern Mayor Alexander Tschäppat, also a socialist, and in Zurich by Mayor Corine Mauch, another member of the party.

In Lausanne he was feted by the head of the Vaud cantonal government, socialist Pierre-Yves Maillard, as well as the city’s mayor, Daniel Brélaz, a member of the Green party.

Hollande was greeted by enthusiastic crowds, posing for selfies at several stops, and gaining generally positive press along the way.

One exception was a photo that made the social media rounds showing the president in Bern next to a man with dreadlocks appearing to gesture with his middle finger as he held up a smartphone to snap a picture.

It is not clear whether the gesture was intended or inadvertent but to many it looked like the man was making fun of the president.

Another image that caught the attention of French press, was one of a soldier who collapsed, apparently from the heat, as Hollande was given military honours upon arrival in the Swiss capital.

If these images detracted from the general tenor of the tour, the president, who is battling political headwinds at home, received some encouraging words from one of his hosts.

Maillard, the president of the Vaud government, reminded him that the two previous French presidents who visited Switzerland (Jacques Chirac in 1998 and François Mitterrand in 1983) went on to win reelection.

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