France. The biggest bank fraud in history was revealed in
January when a stock trader at France's second largest bank,
Société Générale, was found to have caused losses of € 4.9
billion through volatile securities transactions. A criminal
investigation was launched against 31-year-old broker Jérôme
Kerviel, who was suspected of being unfaithful to the
principal, computer infringement and document forgery.
to Countryaah reports, President Nicolas Sarkozy remarried in February, just
three months after his former wife's divorce. The
president's romance with ex-model and singer Carla Bruni,
initiated shortly after the divorce, had attracted much
attention and was followed closely by the press. Many French
were critical of what appeared to be a glamorous jet-set
life; folk humor dubbed Sarkozy as "president bling-bling".
Several public temper tantrums and a political clamor, in
which Sarkozy tended to delve into every possible detail,
helped many consider him inappropriate for the presidency.
After a short year in power, Sarkozy was less popular than
any previous president at the same time; less than 40
percent thought he was doing a good job.
Sarkozy's unpopularity contributed to a major defeat for
his party Union for a People's Movement (UMP) in the local
elections in March. The Left took over almost half of the
larger cities previously controlled by the ruling party and
ruled after the election in 25 of the country's 37 largest
France's military presence in Afghanistan sparked debate
in connection with the deaths of ten French soldiers and
twenty others wounded in an attack by Taliban in August. The
loss was the largest individual to date among foreign
soldiers during the NATO-led operation launched in 2001, and
the French army's largest loss of 25 years. A majority of
the French, according to opinion polls, wanted to withdraw
the troops. Instead, the government decided to provide the
more than 2,500-man force with more helicopters, unmanned
aircraft and other equipment.
At the turn of the year, France took over the EU
Presidency. Thus, Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard
Kouchner came to play an active role in the EU's mediation
efforts when war broke out between Georgia and Russia in
August. The effort was successful; ceasefire was concluded
after a few days of fighting.
Sarkozy continued to maintain a high international
profile as the global financial crisis struck with full
force during the autumn. The president became one of the
main players when Europe's leaders displayed an unexpectedly
powerful force of action. His popularity figures were
significantly boosted by international efforts.
Following a joint European initiative to save the
financial sector, in October Parliament approved a rescue
package for banks worth € 360 billion. Sarkozy also promised
a package of measures to save jobs, as the financial turmoil
caused the notifications to increase sharply at car
manufacturers and the construction sector, among others.
Before the summer, unemployment in France had reached its
lowest level in 25 years.
When the Socialist Party at its congress in November
elected a new party leader, Martine Aubry triumphed over
Ségolène Royal, after a bitter battle and with very little