Sarkozy admits to errors
In a prime-time TV interview, the French president attributes the failures in his economic policy to external factors.25 April 2008
PARIS - President Nicolas Sarkozy has admitted to errors during his tumultuous first year in power but said France had no choice but to step up economic reforms on all fronts.
During a live prime-time television interview from the Elysee palace on Thursday, Sarkozy faulted high oil prices, the strong euro and the world financial crisis for some of the shortcomings in his economic policy.
"France has been asleep for the past 25 years... We have a difficult international context, all the more reason to accelerate reforms," Sarkozy said during the one-hour and 40 minute interview marking his first year in office.
"Of course, I have made mistakes," he said, adding that he and his government had not sufficiently explained reforms.
Swept to power last May on a promise to enact a "clean break" in French politics, Sarkozy has seen his approval rating plummet to below 40 percent earlier this year and he has been unable to bounce back.
Only 28 percent of the French now believe his presidency is going in the right direction, according to recent polls, signalling what the leftist opposition has called a "dangerous" loss of confidence in the country.
But Sarkozy rejected suggestion - emanating even from his own camp - that the government should set clear priorities for reforms, arguing that it was necessary to shake up policy on many fronts.
France has failed to adapt to globalisation "which has turned the world into a village" and is lagging behind other countries, Sarkozy said.
"There is only one possible strategy: to enact change."
Sarkozy lamented that previous governments had lacked the courage to go far enough and had brought reforms to a grinding halt at the first sign of resistance.
"In France, there is always a good reason to do nothing, always someone who is unhappy," the 53-year-old president said.
During his first year in office, Sarkozy paid a high political price for his divorce and celebrity romance with former supermodel Carla Bruni, France's new first lady, which jarred with an increasingly gloomy economic mood.
On Thursday, he declined to answer questions about his private life, saying tersely "everything seems to be back in order now".
After critics labelled him "the bling-bling president", Sarkozy underwent a makeover to project a more statesmanlike image that was on full display during the Elysee interview.
But Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who is vying to lead the Socialist opposition against Sarkozy, said the president appeared at pains to "explain his own powerlessness."
"His first year was a failure for France. He tried to justify this," Delanoe told RTL radio on Friday.
Socialist Segolene Royal, who lost to Sarkozy in the presidential election, charged that the president was being "dishonest" by blaming France's problems on external factors.
She charged that the government still lacked clear direction from Sarkozy after Prime Minister Francois Fillon earlier this week said he expected a "roadmap" from the president to chart the next phase of reforms.
[AFP / Expatica]