He was expected before noon but he stumbled upon some snowfall, Mrs Lagarde had told us earlier in the morning during the session on Climate change. Mr Hollande finally made it to the Davos Congress Center, where his political speech started at 14.30 pm.
Professor Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, welcomed the French President with great honour and impeccable French language skills. The Forum and the world was expecting from the leader of Europe’s second biggest economy to bring the official French voice to the polyphony that echoes strongly from Davos to the rest of the world.
In a long political speech, even the experienced translators had difficulty in keeping up with the thoughts of Mr Hollande that were falling asymmetrically, just like the small snowflakes that fall right now outside in Davos. The President focused on so many things: security, climate, economy and foreign policy.
As expected, he started his speech with the reference to the Paris’ horrible terrorist attack that shook Europe and the world earlier this month. He thanked Europe and the world for the intense solidarity shown. He referred to the march in Paris and all the protests around the world condemning the attack. He mentioned that it was freedom of speech that was attacked in France and that he was glad that the rest of the world joined France in the fight against terrorism.
Mr Hollande did not stay there though. “Every country needs to prepare” he said, underlining that radical islam and jihadism are threatening all the countries of the world. France was first to be hit and more would follow, was the context of his words. Then he talked about how terrorists join forces on the Internet and how it is important for the international community to enforce cyber-security modules to contemplate with that. He added that international organisations should step up in the fight against terrorism. “France cannot do everything alone”, he stressed.
Then he devoted a good part of the speech to talk about France’s strategic interests in Africa and middle east. “France will be there, it will always be there”, he said. “France will be in the front line as always” he stated. Then again he went back to the necessity of security controls, cyber-security, border controls and how the international community needs to help in that. France will invest in this, he made clear, as it is an important investment. He also encouraged all countries to invest in that.
Right after, he mentioned for the first time the word Growth. All countries should contribute to growth, according to Mr Hollande. Solidarity against fragile states of the EU is also of vital importance, he opines.
Then, he continued his roller-coster speech by talking about environment. With the opportunity of the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the end of 2015 in Paris, the French President urged everybody to join the cause. His word on that was a turn to the basics; how man and companies have been exhausting the natural resources and how the economy is not sustainable like that any more. A complete bottom up analysis of climate change phenomenon followed consequently.
Mr Hollande continued his speech on climate change talking about the Green Fund, an initiative that he aims to come to an agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. 100 billion euros are needed for that, he has gathered 10 and he urged other countries to “chip in”. Mr Hollande supports strongly a “green financial economy”, with green bonds and capital in the market to move and grow the green initiative. How this will happen, he omitted to explain, but he certainly asked for the financial sector and companies to play ball in this “green field”.
Then, the French President spoke about the great challenges of the times, volatility and instability. Sanctions, geopolitical stakes, unemployment, oil prices they all contribute to instability for the French politician. He underlined at the same time that “the biggest risk is inequality”. He calls for action against inequality by investment in education.
Next point in this fast running speech was Europe. Mr Hollande said that the EU has done a lot. He welcomed Juncker’s 350 bn euros investment plan. Also, he was the first big politician of this magnitude to official welcome today in the World Economic Forum the ECB’s Quantitative Easing, announced yesterday. Nevertheless, this means that QE does not mean that countries stop reforms. On the contrary, France will receive a big wave of reforms soon he affirmed. The same should happen in the rest of the member states, according to the French President.
Just before closing the speech he talked about his aspirations for France. His aim is to promote competitiveness in 2015, giving large benefits to companies, fight unemployment with internships, invest in digital economy, resume exports and help foreign investors come to a very mature market like the French one.
“You expect a lot from France and you are right”, he said. Following this statement he spoke about how anti-Semitic and anti-muslim sentiments cannot be tolerated in France. “We cannot accept anti-muslim acts”, he underlined. Then again he thanked the world for his support on Charlie Hebdo attack.
Closing he made a statement of the obvious: “There are times in history when we are faced with the good choice and the bad choice”. Someone would think that those moments in history are not that rare.
Last, but not least, realising that his speech faced some organisation issues that made it hard for the audience to follow, he concluded that what he spoke about was “security, development and solidarity”
All in all, this is not a speech that someone would expect from an incumbent President of France but from someone that is left behind in the polls and is fighting to get re-elected. While the meanings were relevant, the order was chaotic despite his convincing body language.
Hoping that his policies are not as disorganised as his speech, we hope that France will do much better in 2015 in terms of economy and policy, in order to strongly support the EU in the tough future that lies ahead.
Stay tuned at the European Sting, the only Brussels media that effectively broke the “Brussels bubble” and made it to Davos with live critical coverage of the most important sessions of the World Economic Forum 2015.
You can view his full speech from Davos here: