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France

Sarkozy addresses entire parliament, first such speech in 150 years

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-22

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is set to present his new policy reforms before a parliamentary assembly at the Château de Versailles, the first such meeting since 1848.

President Nicolas Sarkozy will give an address at 3 pm (GMT+2) in front of France’s senators and deputies, who will be assembled at the Congress of Versailles. This congress has convened 16 times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, yet it is the first time in 150 years that the head of state will address them.

Sarkozy’s speech before the congress was made possible by the constitutional revisions for which the government voted in June 2008. He will deliver his major plans for the second half of his presidential term. The speech comes shortly after his majority party’s victory in the European elections and on the eve of a planned governmental reorganisation.

A parliamentary debate will follow his one-hour address.


Economic crisis, burqa and deficits

The president’s office has revealed little about the contents of the speech, which Sarkozy penned over the weekend with a trusted advisor, Henri Guaino. Closes source to Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party have let it be known that the gist will be about the economic crisis and its aftermath.

Sarkozy is also expected to address hot-button issues like the retirement age, reorganisation of French territories and a controversial proposed bill on the burqa, a garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions which in its most extreme version covers a women’s entire body, including her face.

Even without knowing the speech’s content, the opposition has taken issue with its form.

“There is clearly a denial of democracy when someone speaks and then doesn’t even bother to stay to hear Parliament’s response,” said Benoît Hamon, spokesman of the Socialist Party, in an appearance on the French chat programme Dimanche Soir Politique.

Among the 920 parliamentarians (577 deputies and 343 senators), the 50 or so representing the Communist and Green parties are expected to boycott the Congress. The Socialist deputies and senators, however, will be present, but they will not be taking part in the debate.

Date created : 2009-06-22