Crowds in Paris and across France have said goodbye to 2016. The last two years have tested the country, with several terror attacks and the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency.
In his final end-of-year address to the nation, outgoing President François Hollande praised the grit and determination of the French people.
“You’ve continued to live, to work, to go out, to move around, to cherish freedom. You can be proud of yourselves. But we’re not done with the plight of terrorism. We have to keep on fighting it. This is the reason for our military operations abroad, in Mali, in Syria, in Iraq — Iraq where I’ll be going the day after tomorrow (January 2) to salute our troops. Vive la République! Vive la France,” he declared.
He also made reference to the forthcoming presidential elections, scheduled between April and May, 2017. Talking about a possible victory for the far-right Front National, he said: “That would no longer be France.”
He also warned François Fillon, the candidate for the right-wing Républicains party, that “brutalising society must be avoided.”
“Democracy, freedom, social rights, Europe and even peace, all of that becomes vulnerable, reversible,” added Hollande.
“We saw it in the United Kingdom, with Brexit, and in the United States during the election in November. We see it across our continent, with the rise of extremism.
“In history, there are moments when everything can change dramatically. We are living through one. So, in less than five months, you will have to make a choice. It will be decisive for France.”