French President Francois Hollande made little mention of personal matters during his press conference on Tuesday, preferring to concentrate on plans for the economy, despite the controversy surrounding his private life.
"There is no time to lose," Hollande, said after re-introducing his flagship measure to tackle France's crippling unemployment and rising social unrest. The so-called Responsibility pact, which Hollande first mentioned during his televised New Year's address, is aimed primarily at lowering labor costs — which French businesses are quick to point out remain among the highest in the developed world.
"The time has come for France to resolve its main problem, its productivity," Hollande stated on Tuesday, before outlining the other aims of the Responsibility Pact. These were modernizing the corporate tax system and reducing the administrative burden on companies. In exchange, companies were called on to improve working conditions and help boost youth employment.
Hollande also touched on the large deficit looming over the country's finances. He reiterated his pledge to make spending cuts of 15 billion euros ($20.5 billion) in 2014, followed by an additional 50 billion euros of cuts between 2015 and 2017 — a feat, he said, that had never been achieved before in France.
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He insisted though that the prospective Responsibility Pact and deficit decline would come from structural reforms, rather than "blind budgetary cuts". He said "excesses and abuses" of the welfare system should be curbed, and that a reform of local authorities would follow.
However, despite Hollande's focus on the economy and the welfare system, queries about his private life could not be silenced. This follows controversy over his alleged affair with a French actress, which was exacerbated when his long-term partner, Valerie Trierweiler, was hospitalized for exhaustion and blood-pressure problems.
"Is Valerie Trierweiler still France's First Lady?" bluntly asked Alain Barluet, a journalist for the French daily newspaper Le Figaro.
Hollande replied: "I understand your question and I am certain that you will understand my answer. Everyone can, in their private life, go through ordeals; it's our case."
"These are painful moments, but I have one principle, and it's that private affairs should be treated in private," he continued, promising to reveal the truth to French people before his state visit to Washington DC in February.