France's Hollande urges big business to help in anti-terror fight

23rd January 2015, Comments 0 comments

French President Francois Hollande urged business leaders gathered in Davos Friday to take action in the fight against extremism, saying the financial sector could help by cutting off funding sources.

The French leader addressed an audience of the global business elite two weeks after attacks in Paris against magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket killed 17 and shocked the world.

This was Hollande's first major speech to the world's financial leaders since taking office. Campaigning in 2012, he said he considered finance his "real enemy."

"You, the lifeblood of the economic world, the biggest bosses of companies around the world, I ask you not only to be watchful but to also get involved," Hollande said to a packed audience.

"I call on the financial system to ensure that the sources of financing for terrorists are dried up," he said.

He also urged "major digital corporations to play their role, to identify illegal content and to make them inaccessible and to establish clear rules, because you are also stakeholders".

"You cannot have prosperity without security," said the French leader.

With his call for business leaders to adopt a higher sense of responsiblity, Hollande followed a Davos tradition for French leaders.

Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010 harangued the Davos audience, accusing investors of "follies" that precipitated the financial crisis.

In 2005, Jacques Chirac stayed in Paris due to bad weather in Davos, but by videoconference called for a financial transaction tax to help the fight against AIDS.

Hollande took the opportunity to pitch the qualities of France to the roomful of influential investors, many of whom criticise the country's rigid economy.

"France is conscious of it strengths. It is also aware of its limitations and handicaps," he said.

The leader also pledged that the blockbuster decision the day before by the ECB to embark on massive bond-buying spree, would not be used as an excuse to ease up on reforms.

"It would be too simple to say, given that the ECB has released liquidity to stimulate growth, that we have nothing left to do," Hollande said, repeating a line often said by powerful Germany.

Heavily indebted France is often singled out for refusing reform, and though several measures have been announced by the Hollande government, few have yet been implemented.

Hollande's high-profile visit to Davos came on the day of the death of Saudi King Abdullah, which caused the early departure of Middle eastern dignitaries, including the Jordanian king.

Hollande said he would travel to Saudi Arabia to "offer his condolences", though the exact timing of the trip had yet to be decided, the presidency said.


© 2015 AFP

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