France. The credit rating agency Standard & Poor's
lowered France's credit rating in January, citing the
country's high indebtedness and the eurozone crisis. It was
relatively expected, but still a nose for President Nicolas
Sarkozy, who said a credit cut would be "dead" for his
countryaah, the Senate passed a law that made it criminal to deny
that Armenians were subjected to genocide during World War I
in today's Turkey. However, the disputed law, which had
already been passed by the National Assembly, was annulled
at the end of February by the Constitutional Court, which
found that it violated the freedom of expression. Turkey,
which had frozen some contacts with France in protest,
welcomed the court's decision
The city of Toulouse was shaken in March by a serial
killer who turned out to be an Islamist terrorist. First,
three soldiers were shot dead on two separate occasions. A
few days later, three children and a teacher were murdered
at a Jewish school. Soon afterwards, the perpetrator was
identified and after a siege of more than two days,
23-year-old Mohammed Merah was shot dead in a police fire.
Afterwards came criticism of the security service that did
not keep him under surveillance despite signs of violent
The weeks following the act, police arrested 30 suspected
extreme Islamists in raids in several parts of France.
Several were expelled from the country.
In the first round of elections in April, Socialist Party
candidate François Hollande won, closely followed by Sarkozy.
The anti-xenophobic National Front candidate Marine Le Pen
received 18%, the party's best result to date. It was
interpreted as a failure of Sarkozy in his attempts to lure
over right-wing voters with his stubborn attitude toward
In the decisive round in May, Hollande won by just under
52 against just over 48% for Sarkozy.
The government that Hollande appointed consisted of half
of women, which was new to France. The Prime Minister's post
went to Jean-Marc Ayrault. In accordance with a election
promise, Hollande lowered ministerial salaries, as well as
his own salary, by 30%.
Elections to the National Assembly were held in two
rounds in June. The Socialist Party, with the support of the
Environmentalist Party and some leftist groups, gained a
reassuring majority, while Sarkozy's bourgeois party UMP
(Union for a People's Movement) backed down sharply. The
result meant that the socialists held both the presidential
post and a majority in both chambers of parliament.
The new government was facing difficult challenges;
unemployment was high, the economy had stagnated and not
much pointed to a speedy recovery. A tough budget was
presented with spending cuts and tax increases, mainly for
well-off people and companies. Particularly noteworthy was a
temporary tax of 75% on incomes over one million euros a
Hollande's popularity declined rapidly. Half a year after
the election, two-thirds of voters were dissatisfied with
the government. The president was regarded as initiativeless
and unclear. The economy was in dire need of growth beyond
the zero line for growth.
At the Socialist Party Congress in September, the party
leader Martine Aubry resigned, who lost the primary election
against Hollande and then became without a ministerial post
in his government. She was succeeded by Harlem Désir.
In November, for the first time, primary elections were
also held at the UMP, which has been without a leader since
Sarkozy's election defeat. The election between right-wing
candidate Jean-François Copé and former prime minister
François Fillon resulted in a bitter battle that resulted in
both proclaiming themselves victors. The conflict threatened
to split the party, but the rivals eventually agreed to hold
a new election in 2013.
In November, France was first among the EU countries to
recognize the newly formed opposition alliance as a
legitimate representative of Syria and also advocated arms
deliveries to the regime's opponents.
The announced increase in marginal tax rates made many
wealthy people threaten to leave the country, and some did.
Particularly resurrection aroused the star actor Gérard
Depardieu's decision to emigrate. Just before the New Year,
the Constitutional Court declared that the tax violated the
Constitution, as it was directed at individuals and not
households that otherwise apply in France. The decision was
seen as a serious setback for Hollande, who, however,
promised to return with a new version of the law.