Sarkozy ignores ratings blow as he promises reform

French President tells voters 'urgent' action will be taken to restore ailing economy


President Nicolas Sarkozy promised yesterday to make an "important" statement to the French people about plans for "urgent" economic reform – but made no mention of the country losing its coveted AAA debt rating.

In his first public appearance since the ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded French sovereign debt on Friday, Mr Sarkozy sought to appear unfazed by what opponents insist is a personal calamity. "I will speak to the French people at the end of the month to tell them about the important decisions that must be taken without delay," he said. "I will tell them we can recover from the economic crisis but only if we have the collective will to reform our country." He made no reference to "ratings agency" or "AAA".

On Saturday, François Hollande, the Socialist challenger to Mr Sarkozy and the front-runner to win the presidential election in the spring, tried to drape the albatross of the ratings downgrade firmly around Mr Sarkozy's neck. "It is not France that has been downgraded but the policies [of the President]," he said. "For the first time, since ratings of sovereign debt began, France is no longer equal with Germany. We are no longer in the first division."

Standard & Poor's had "punished the failures" of a five-year presidential term, which left France with a high budget deficit, a high trade deficit and no growth, Mr Hollande said.

The Prime Minister, François Fillon, retorted that Mr Hollande was "even more wrong than usual" and invited him to submit his own "all-taxing and all-spending" government programme for rating by Standard & Poor's.

Most political commentary in France has broadly agreed with Mr Hollande: the downgrade is a personal calamity for Mr Sarkozy and a serious blow to his chances of re-election in the two rounds of voting on 22 April and 6 May.

The President's domestic and European policy for the past year has been driven by a determination to maintain the AAA rating and to preserve France's status as part of the solution to the eurozone debt crisis, not part of the problem. Yesterday, he chose nonetheless to act as if nothing much had happened. For the past four years, he said, he had been warning the French people of the seriousness of a global "economic crisis" which "may be the worst for a century". This was a challenge which must be faced with "courage, calm and unity", he said, not with "exaggeration" or "agitation and overreaction".

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant in secondary school Manchester

£11280 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Teaching a...

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits