France's Hollande to give Bastille Day interview

France's President Francois Hollande (2ndR) and French Army Chief of Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud (R) review the troops as they descend the Champs Elysees in Paris at the start of the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris July 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO / POOL / JACQUES BRINON

PARIS: French President Francois Hollande gives his first major interview since his May election to mark Bastille Day on Saturday, expecting to touch on issues including the eurozone debt crisis and Syria.

The interview was to be broadcast on the TF1 and France 2 channels at 1115 GMT and reintroduces a tradition of Bastille Day interviews that his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy broke with.

Hollande started the day reviewing the traditional Bastille Day military parade that saw soldiers, sailors and gendarmes march down the Champs Elysee from the Arc de Triomphe, with fighter jets and other military planes flying overhead.

Sitting alongside government ministers and accompanied by his partner Valerie Trierweiler, Hollande watched as nearly 5,000 uniformed servicewomen and servicemen took part in the parade.

After the ceremony Hollande was to give his first major interview since he defeated Sarkozy in May and his Socialists took control of parliament last month.

With France battered by the eurozone debt crisis, much of the interview was expected to focus on Hollande's efforts to kickstart the country's stagnant economy.

Hollande was handed bad news on Thursday when French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen underlined the country's economic difficulties -- and in particular its lack of competitiveness -- by announcing it was cutting 8,000 jobs.

Earlier in the week the Bank of France had confirmed an estimate that the French economy will shrink by 0.1 percent in the second quarter -- the first quarter of negative growth since France emerged from recession in the spring of 2009.

A second contraction in the third quarter would mean France joining other EU countries like Britain, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain in recession.

Hollande's government has vowed to get the economy back on track while keeping a promise to balance the country's budget by 2017.

In the interview Hollande is likely to highlight government plans to boost French competitiveness, including proposals due next year to lower payroll charges by increasing the social security charges on other incomes.

On international issues, he is expected to be asked about the crisis in Syria and in former French colony Mali, where Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters have occupied the country's north.

On Friday Hollande called on Russia and China not to oppose tougher UN sanctions against Syria, telling BFM television: "I say to the Russians, the Chinese: doing nothing to advance us toward stronger sanctions will only result in chaos and war in Syria at the expense of (your) own interests."





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