The French President, under fire over an alleged affair with an actress, has refused to discuss his personal life, but said he would clarify the status of France’s first lady before a visit to the United States next month.
Francois Hollande faced the tough task of rousing media interest for his 2014 policy plans on Tuesday as all eyes remained firmly trained on shock revelations of his affair with a glamorous actress.
“Everyone in their private life can go through tough times. It’s our case, these are painful moments,” he said in response to a question on whether Valerie Trierweiler, his partner of many years, was still the first lady of France.
“Private affairs must be handled in private in an intimacy that respects everyone. It is neither the place nor the time to do it”, he said, before saying he would not answer further questions on the subject.
Everyone in their private life can go through tough times. It's our case, these are painful moments
The 59-year-old Hollande had initially been hoping to ride out the storm created by last week’s report of an affair with Gayet, who is 18 years his junior.
But those hopes were shattered with the hospitalisation on Friday of Trierweiler.
The affair has also raised questions about Hollande’s security and Sebastien Valiela, the photographer who shot Hollande allegedly going for his trysts said the president “was not well protected”.
“My security is assured everywhere and at all times, when I travel
officially in France, in Paris, in the world, or when I travel privately,
inevitably with less extensive protection. No one need worry about that,” Hollande said.
Trierweiler had been expected to check out of hospital on Monday, but “doctors believe she needs more rest”, her aide said.
Symptoms variously described in the media as low blood pressure, exhaustion and a “severe case of the blues” developed within hours of glossy French magazine, Closer, publishing details of Hollande’s secret meetings with Gayet in a borrowed apartment close to his residence.
Payroll taxes cut
The French president kicked off the eagerly awaited press conference with a pledge to cut 30 billion euros ($41bn) from payroll taxes by 2017.
Hollande said the measure, which will involve abolishing so-called family contributions currently paid by companies and independent workers, would help stimulate growth in a country he said had lost its economic strength.
“France must get moving again in order to set off again,” he said as he outlined what he termed as a new Responsibility Pact with business.
He said the country was already seeing “fragile” results, such as a drop in youth unemployment and what he said was a “stabilisation” of overall jobless figures.
Hollande had pledged to reverse the trend of rising unemployment by the end of 2013, but the latest figures for November indicate this is going to be a difficult task.
He also proposed a joint Franco-German company to drive the switch to renewable energy modelled on European planemaker Airbus.
“We have to create a convergence in tax policies, starting with corporation tax,” Hollande said at the news conference, adding that the new German coalition’s decision to create a minimum wage was a first step.
‘Ready to forgive’
The traditional reticence in France’s media and political class over what is seen as prying into the private lives of public figures ensured that reaction was at first subdued.
Having put her career as a journalist for Paris Match on hold after Hollande’s 2012 election, Trierweiler has accompanied the president on overseas visits to China, Japan and India, and is due to travel with him to Washington next month.
Rumours had swirled since Gayet appeared in a 2012 Hollande campaign video in which she gushed about him being “fantastic, humble and really ready to listen”.
Nonetheless, friends of Trierweiler quoted by Le Parisien newspaper have insisted she was devastated when the report of the affair emerged.
“She is ready to forgive him, she doesn’t want to slam the door but she has to know quickly what his intentions are,” the local paper quoted a friend as saying.
Twice-divorced Trierweiler has officially been Hollande’s partner since 2007, when he left Segolene Royal, a fellow heavyweight in the Socialist Party with whom he has four children.