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IN PICTURES: The defining moments of Hollande’s presidency

François Hollande's presidency has been overshadowed by an unprecedented wave of jihadist attacks, violent protests over labour reforms and revelations about his messy private life.

IN PICTURES: The defining moments of Hollande's presidency
Hollande and Gayet chatting on a terrace of the Elysée Palace. Photo: Voici

Following are some of the defining moments of his mandate which began in 2012 and which he confirmed Thursday would be his last.

Three major terror attacks

Since January 2015, 238 people have been killed in a series of jihadist attacks, mostly the work of French radicals acting in the name of Islamic State (IS) or other extremist groups.

Hollande leans over the coffin of late Police officer Ahmed Merabet who was killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015. Photo: AFP

Hollande won praise for rallying a shocked nation after the first attacks on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Around 50 heads of state joined him on a march against terror that brought over 3.7 million people onto the streets of France.

Photo: AFP

Ten months later, he reacted quickly when IS massacred 130 people in Paris at the Bataclan concert hall, at cafes and bars, and outside the national stadium.

Hollande flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem stands among students as they hold a minute of silence in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris on November 16, 2016.

Hollande immediately announced a state of emergency, declaring that France was “at war” and deploying troops to patrol the streets.

 

Hollande deploys a plaque at the Bataclan concert hall, a prime target of the November attacks in Paris where 130 people were killed on November 13, 2015. Photo: AFP

But in July, when a 31-year-old Tunisian mowed down 86 people enjoying Bastille Day festivities in Nice, accusations began to mount that Hollande's government was failing to rise to the threat of extremism.

Visiting the command centre for France's anti-terror “Vigipirate” plan at the fort of Vincennes, on the outskirts of Paris, in July 2016. Photo: AFP

A tumultuous private life

Before coming to office Hollande took jabs at the romantic antics of his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy — who married supermodel Carla Bruni while president — vowing that on personal matters, he himself would be “exemplary”.

But cracks quickly began to show in Hollande's relationship with long-term partner Valerie Trierweiler, and the couple split after it emerged he had been having an affair with an actress nearly 20 years his junior, Julie Gayet.

Photo: AFP

Trierweiler published a best-selling memoir that proved deeply embarrassing to Hollande, not least through its claim that the Socialist leader disdained the poor.

Photo: AFP

To make matters more complicated, Hollande has four children from an earlier relationship with Environment Minister Segolene Royal.

Violent labour protests

Hollande came to power on a leftist platform — including a top tax rate of 75 percent — but later shifted towards business-friendly policies, notably trying to tackle France's famously rigid labour laws.

Riot police in Paris during the protests. Photo: AFP

His government suffered months of violent protests this year over reforms designed to make it easier to hire people but also easier to fire them, before finally managing to get a watered-down version passed over the summer.

Foreign wars

Hollande launched a military operation in Mali in January 2013 to stop the advance of Islamists who had taken over swathes of northern Mali, a former French colony.

Hollande salutes Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. Photo: AFP

The following December, a second operation was launched in the Central African Republic — another former colonial possession — in a bid to restore stability to a country gripped by religious violence.

Jihadists remain active in Mali and a vast portion of the country remains out of government control, while violence also remains rife in CAR.

Hollande in front of the coffin of a French soldier killed in service in Mali. Photo: AFP

Hollande also sought to intervene in Syria in 2013, but backed out of air strikes when it became clear that US President Barack Obama did not intend to follow suit.

Photo: AFP

France only began air strikes in Syria in late 2015 as part of an international coalition targeting IS. French raids against IS in Iraq had begun a year earlier in September 2014.

Row over French nationality

After the Paris attacks, Hollande sought to modify the constitution to allow convicted terrorists to be stripped of their French nationality if they were dual-nationals.

The issue sparked fierce debate over the ethics of such a move, with Hollande's Justice Minister Christiane Taubira quitting in protest.

Hollande and Taubira. Photo: AFP

Hollande finally axed the idea in March. In his announcement Thursday that he would not seek re-election, he flagged up the row as the one major regret of his presidency

Global climate deal

Hollande campaigned hard for the historic climate agreement signed in Paris last December, and hailed it in his speech Thursday as one of his key achievements.

Celebrating the the adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris. Photo: AFP

 
Hollande shakes hands with Ecuadorians at a stand at the COP21 summit in Paris. Photo: AFP

Gay marriage

The Socialist leader had made “marriage for all” one of his election pledges, and same-sex marriages were signed into law in April 2013, despite angry protests by tens of thousands of social conservatives.

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POLITICS

French diplomats to strike over ‘avalanche’ of reforms

French diplomats are to strike next month for only the second time in their history, protesting an "avalanche" of reforms that unions say are undermining the foreign service at a time of global tensions.

French diplomats to strike over 'avalanche' of reforms

“The Quai d’Orsay is disappearing little by little,” read a statement from six staff unions, using a familiar name for the French foreign ministry’s headquarters on the south bank of the Seine in central Paris.

The main complaint is a reform to career structures which will see the special status accorded to the most senior diplomats scrapped from next year, unions say.

“These measures dismantling our diplomatic service make no sense at a time when war has returned in Europe,” their joint statement said.

Under changes championed by President Emmanuel Macron, and rushed through by decree in April, top foreign service officials would lose their special protected status and be absorbed in a larger pool of elite public sector workers.

This could mean France’s roughly 700 most senior diplomats being asked to join other ministries and facing competition from non-diplomats for top postings.

“We’re very worried,” one serving diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. “We’re not interchangeable. I have the utmost respect for my colleagues in other state services but I don’t know how to do their job and they don’t know how to do mine.”

The strike has been called for June 2nd.

France has the third-biggest foreign service in the world after China and the United States, with around 14,000 employees at the foreign ministry in total.

The vast majority of these are non-diplomats or people on local contracts in countries around the world.

The aim of the government shake-up is to encourage more mobility between state services, which have historically been divided up into separate units with rules and job protections that make moving between them very difficult.

The government is also keen to attract new, more diverse candidates to the diplomatic service by opening new routes to the ministry, but critics see a danger of political interference.

“The door is now open to American-style nominations,” former ambassador to Washington and vocal critic of the reform, Gerard Araud, tweeted last month.

American ambassadors are named by the president, who often uses the power to reward political allies and donors with plum foreign postings.

The last and only strike by French diplomats was in 2003 to push for pay increases.

The stoppage on June 2nd underlines “the real malaise in the ministry, which does not have a rebellious culture,” Olivier da Silva from the CFTC union said.

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