President Nicolas Sarkozy will today make an historic speech before a joint session of the French parliament, gathered at the Palace of Versailles.
It will be the first time in more than 100 years that a French president will have been allowed to address parliament directly – made possible by constitutional reforms last year. But Sarkozy has been criticised by opposition parties for self-aggrandisement normally associated with what they claim would be a monarchy and not a republic. Indeed both the Communists and the Greens have promised to boycott the occasion. But for Sarkozy, whose right-wing UMP party emerged as one of the winners in the recent European elections despite the low turn out, the speech is an opportunity to focus on reforms to help the unemployed and to steer the economy through the recession. With a government reshuffle due any day now, he is also expected to seek backing for increased government intervention in the French economy.