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.
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.
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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 municipalities.
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 margin.
Contemporary History of France
The contemporary history of France is the country’s history from 2005 to the present.
The financial crisis in 2008–2009
Les Républicans declined, but the victory of a crisis-hit socialist party was scarcer than expected in the local elections the year after the presidential election. The new president also had to endure a popularity decline of historical dimensions, which linked to both unfulfilled expectations and his third marriage, now with singer Carla Bruni. Sarkozy, however, strengthened its position within the EU when France took over the rolling, six-year presidency in the summer of 2008. The interaction with Germany – the Paris-Berlin axis – was revitalized as an engine of EU cooperation, with concerted action against the escalating financial crisis as a major area.
In April 2009, the French government had committed € 50 billion to meet the financial crisis – and had given itself an extended deadline, until 2012, to again comply with the EU requirement that the budget deficit should not exceed 3 percent of the gross domestic product.
Under Sarkozy, France was keen to further develop relations with the United States. In the spring of 2009, France was back in NATO’s integrated command structure, which then-President Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of in 1966. It was visibly expressed by the alliance’s 60th anniversary summit being split between French Strasbourg and German Kehl – on each side of the Friendship Bridge across the Rhine.
The declining support for the moderate right-wing party, and Sarkozy himself, was continued at the regional elections in March 2010. 52 percent of voters voted socially and 10 percent on Le Pen’s outgoing National Front. The government of Les Républicans only gained 35 percent and lost in 21 of the country’s 22 regions. A voter turnout of around 50 per cent was also interpreted as an expression of dissatisfaction, including unemployment that had passed 10 percent and continued high crime and weak economic growth.
The 2012 presidential election
A new presidential election was held for two rounds in spring 2012. The first round was held on April 22. None of the candidates got a majority in the first round. Sitting President Nicolas Sarkozy and challenger Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party went on to a second round on May 6 with 27.18 and 28.63 percent of the votes respectively.
The second round ended with Hollande being elected president with 51.63 percent of the vote, against 48.37 percent for Sarkozy.
The terrorist attacks in Paris 2015
On Friday, November 13, 2015, Paris was hit by several simultaneous terrorist attacks. Within three hours, terrorists hit six different locations inside and outside the city. The sites that were attacked were cafes, restaurants, a concert venue and the Stade de France football arena. The terror began at 21.20 and was over at 00.20 at night until Saturday 14 November.
130 people were killed by the terrorists in the attacks. 351 people were injured. Seven terrorists died during the attacks.
The day after the attack, then-French President François Hollande ruled that the Islamic State (IS) extremist group was behind the terrorist attacks. IS also assumed responsibility through audio recordings and written messages in Arabic, French and English posted online.
The terrorist attack was the third attack in the city this year. On January 7, 12 people were killed in a terrorist attack against the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. Two days later, January 9, four people were killed in a terror attack on a Jewish business. All three of these attacks were carried out by extreme Islamists.
The 2017 presidential election
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy attempted a comeback in 2017, but he already failed in the fight to become a candidate for Les Républicains. Party candidate Francois Fillon, for his part, failed to advance to the second round of the spring 2017 presidential election.
The election was marked by a historic setback for the established and traditionally largest parties in French politics, Les Républicains and Parti Socialiste. For the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic, neither party went on to the second round. The defeat was greatest for the Socialist Party, the party’s candidate Benoît Hamon was parked with only 6.36 percent of the vote.
The second round was between Emmanuel Macron from the fresh party La République en marche and Marine Le Pen from Front National. The election ended with Macron being elected president after Hollande, as the youngest president in French history. Opposition to immigration-hostile Front National secured Macron a support of 66 percent of the vote.
The presidential election was held under state of emergency, following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.
According to Countryaah reports, the population of France in 2008 was 62,879,419, ranking number 22 in the world. The population growth rate was 0.570% yearly, and the population density was 114.8365 people per km2.