Sarkozy succeeds Chirac as president of France

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Entrance to Élysée Palace the official residence of the President of France
Image: David Monniaux.

Today, the official ceremony ushering in Nicolas Sarkozy as the new president of France took place at Élysée Palace. A 21-gun salute marked the moment he assumed power from his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.

Jean-Louis Debré, president of the Constitutional Council, received the oath of office from Sarkozy. "From this day on and for the duration of your mandate, you embody France, symbolize the republic and represent all the French people," he said as he made Sarkozy the 23rd President of France.

Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia, and their five children were among the attendees.

"I will defend the independence of France. I will defend the identity of France," said Sarkozy in his inaugural address. "There is a need to unite the French people ... and to meet commitments because never before has [public] confidence been so shaken and so fragile."

France needs "to take risks and follow initiatives," he said, as well as "rehabilitate the values of work, effort, merit and respect."

He also said he would place defense of human rights and the fight against global warming at the center of his foreign policy.

Handing over the launch codes for France's nuclear arsenal, was one of the final tasks of Chirac's presidency. After a private meeting with Sarkozy, Chirac drove off, ending his 12 years as president, with Sarkozy waving goodbye from the courtyard of Élysée Palace. Tuesday, Chirac had made his farewells to the nation in a televised address.

Sarkozy rode in convertible up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, where he rekindled the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He said that he was moved by a letter written by Guy Môquet to his parents. Môquet was executed by the Germans in 1941, along with Jean-Pierre Timbaud. It is essential that children know the horrors of war, he said. Coincidentially, Sarkozy is the first president of France to have been born after World War II.

After that, Sarkozy flew to Germany for talks about the future of the European Union.

"The first emergency is to get the European Union out of its current paralysis," Sarkozy told reporters in Berlin. "For that, it is necessary that Germany, which today holds the EU presidency, and France, which has always been its privileged partner in Europe, see eye to eye on this."

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