Francois Hollande has said France needs to ensure upkeep of train lines after a derailment left six people dead. Earlier on Sunday, African troops marched alongside France’s military in the Bastille Day parade.
A main point in the French president’s interview with top television journalists on Bastille Day was the train wreck that killed six outside of Paris on Friday.
“We must do much more to maintain traditional lines, existing lines,” Hollande said during the interview. “The first conclusion we will draw is to ensure that, in the significant investments being made in the coming years, the priority is on traditional intercity lines,” he added.
On Saturday afternoon, Pierre Izard, the SNCF railway’s general manager responsible for infrastructure, had told reporters that investigators found that a joint had moved from its normal position, which may have caused the train wreck. However, officials also found that another train had traveled through the station without incident just before the wreck, and a further investigation would be carried out to determine why the joint may have malfunctioned when it did.
With his popularity at rock-bottom, Hollande, a socialist, used the interview to defend his 14 months in office since taking over from the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy.
‘Recovery is here’
“The economic recovery is here,” Hollande said during the television interview. “I will increase taxes only if necessary, ideally as little as possible,” he added.
Hollande also used the interview to address economic issues such as how France would handle EU-mandated budget cuts planned for this year. These include proposed changes to France’s pension schemes, which have already sparked calls from unions for general strikes.
“As long as I am president, there were will be no exploration for shale gas,” Hollande said. “We can see some consequences in the United States” from the technique, he added.
Hollande said that France would maintain its ban on the exploration for shale gas throughout his five-year term. He said the fracking technique used to extract shale gas presented too many “risks to groundwater.”
Since 2011, France has banned energy companies from exploiting shale gas over fears of environmental risks from the potential air and water pollution involved in fracking.
And a parade
As France mourned the six killed near Paris, Hollande also commented on what he called the success of the country’s first military intervention since he took office a year ago. “Their presence is a tribute to those who actively helped to banish terrorism of the Malian territory,” Hollande said of the African troops marching in Paris.
“It’s a victory that was won,” Hollande said in the interview with the France 2 and TF-1 television stations in the garden of the presidential Elysee Palace. “Look at what happened. It was a victory for Africa, a victory against terrorism, and pride that we must have.”
“I was saluted in Africa, not for what I said but for what I did,” Hollande said of his visits to the continent this year.
In all, 4,800 troops marched past the presidential stage in central Paris, where Hollande stood next to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Bastille Day marks the July 14, 1789, storming of a prison that helped spark the French Revolution. This year, 241 horses, 265 vehicles, 58 planes and 35 helicopters participated. Among the assembled soldiers were German troops from Donaueschingen’s 292nd Battalion and the German-French Brigade.
mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP)