Pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron became president of France on Sunday in a solemn Elysee Palace ceremony and vowed to work to heal divisions in society – a nod to the bitter campaign he fought to defeat the leader of the far right.
His inauguration marked a first for the world’s fifth largest economy and founding member of the European Union, installing a 39-year-old newcomer unknown to the wider public three years ago and outside any traditional political grouping.
The former investment banker becomes the youngest post-war French leader and the first to be born after 1958 when President Charles de Gaulle put in place the country’s Fifth Republic, reports Reuters.
In his first word in office, he addressed himself to the fraught and fiercely contested election campaign in which he overcame the National Front’s Marine Le Pen but which was a disappointment for almost half of France’s 47 million voters.
Many people feel dispossessed by globalisation as manufacturing jobs move abroad and as immigration and a fast-changing world blur their sense of a French identity.
“The division and fractures in our society must be overcome. I know that the French expect much from me. Nothing will make me stop defending the higher interests of France and for working to reconcile the French,” Macron declared.
A convinced European integrationist unlike Le Pen and other leadership candidates, Macron went on: “The world and Europe need more than ever France, and a strong France, which speaks out loudly for freedom and solidarity.”
He will launch his bid for closer ties with EU anchor nation Germany at talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday in Berlin where he will ram home the message that the bloc is resilient despite Britain’s “Brexit” vote and a spate of financial and migration crises that has boosted the far right.
On Monday, Macron is to name his prime minister, whose job will be to pilot the president’s liberalizing reforms aimed at reducing high unemployment and reviving the sluggish economy.
The rise of Macron, which was marked by a 21-gun salute at the Esplanade des Invalides behind the Eiffel Tower, signaled at least a pause in the anti-globalization trend that elevated businessman Donald Trump into the U.S. presidency and led British voters to choose a future outside the European Union.