French President Hollande’s Stormy First Day

By Jean-Nicholas Fievet

May 15, 2012 3:30pm

France’s new president is having a stormy first day on the job.  A possible lightning strike and bad weather forced Francois Hollande’s plane to return briefly to Paris as he headed to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to the French Ministry of Defense.

Earlier today he was drenched by rain during the traditional procession in Paris along the Champs-Elysées to t‎he Arc de Triomphe.

And just hours after he was sworn into office, he learned that Greek talks to form a government collapsed, causing the financial markets to take another dive.

It’s traditional for the French head of state to pay a courtesy visit to their counterpart in Berlin after being inaugurated. Tonight’s meeting is expected to focus on the European debt crisis that’s threatening the world economy.

Despite the pageantry at today’s ceremonies, it was a sober, low-key affair in keeping with the tough economic times, and seemed to mark a departure from the style of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Though he was escorted by a mounted military guard of honor, the new president opted to be driven in a modest Citroen hybrid car. In his inauguration speech, President Hollande emphasized France’s massive debt, weak growth, high unemployment, and a whole continent in crisis. There were no big parties or inauguration balls. It was straight down to business as Hollande caught a flight to Berlin for talks about saving the European currency.

Hollande, 57, is only the second Socialist president of modern France, after Francois Mitterrand’s 1981-1995 tenure, and rode to the presidency on a wave of resurgent leftist sentiment amid Europe’s debt crisis and anti-free-market protests around the world, the AP reported.

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