Nicolas Sarkozy has called on French people to resist and fight in the face of the crisis, two days after France saw its credit rating downgraded by leading ratings agency Standard and Poor’s.
Speaking after paying tribute to a leading political figure under Charles de Gaulle on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the president’s message had a wartime ring to it.
“This is a test and one we have to confront. We have to resist, to fight, we have to demonstrate our courage, to keep a cool head. We do not respond to a crisis of this magnitude with agitation, fits of anger and controversy,” he said.
Three months before the presidential election, his leading rival Francois Hollande, on a visit to Guadeloupe, implied that Sarkozy had let himself be dictated to by the ratings agencies, to no avail.
“I prefer us to pass essential structural reforms at the start of the five-year term in order to distribute wealth at the end,” the Socialist Party candidate said. “This will spare us the experience of the last five-year term which saw wealth distributed to the richest at the start, and which demanded all of us, especially the worst off, to make an effort at the end.”
The papers too have been making the most of the French loss of its cherished triple-A status.
President Sarkozy, who had attached importance to keeping it, now faces another crucial week when the crisis will dominate meetings with unions and European leaders.