PARIS — Emmanuel Macron became France’s youngest-ever president on Sunday, promising at his inauguration to restore the country’s lost confidence and relaunch the flagging European Union.
Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, took the reins of power from Socialist Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace a week after his resounding victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in an election that was watched worldwide.
After a private meeting with his former mentor Hollande and his first speech as president, Macron headed up the rainy Champs Elysees in an army vehicle, waving to small crowds of wellwishers who gathered along the famed avenue.
Macron said his first priority would be “to give back to the French people the confidence that for too long has been flagging.”
“I will convince our compatriots that France’s power is not in decline, but that we are at the dawn of an extraordinary renaissance because we have all the qualities which will make… the great powers of the 21st century,” he said.
While France’s place was in the European Union “which protects us and enables us to project our values in the world,” the 28-member bloc needed to be “reformed and relaunched,” the president said.
Macron also suggested he would press on with his ambitious agenda to reform France’s rigid labor market and modernize the social security system despite the fierce resistance he is likely to meet.
Some analysts and opponents have questioned the strength of Macron’s mandate after he won just 24.01 percent in the first round of the presidential election on April 23 before his landslide victory over Le Pen in the second.
His rivals on the far-right and far-left, opposed to the EU and major economic reforms, won around 50 percent of the first-round vote.
The former investment banker was proclaimed president by Laurent Fabius, president of the Constitutional Council, at the 18th-century presidential palace in central Paris where Macron and his wife Brigitte will now live./AFP