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France’s Hollande reacts to Trump win, calls for ‘unity’ in face of rising populism

FRANCE 24 | French President François Hollande in the southern Moroccan city of Marrakesh on November 15, 2016

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 on Tuesday, French President François Hollande warned against the risk of divisions at a time when the country faces “so many threats.”

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To watch FRANCE 24’s full interview, click on the player above. To view on a mobile device, click here.

Hollande discussed a range of issues during the interview, including US president-elect Donald Trump, the rise of populism worldwide and national security. The interview was conducted in partnership with FRANCE 24’s sister radio station RFI, and TV5 Monde.

“If France divides itself, if France fragments itself, if France disunites at a moment when it has to face so many threats, when it has so many assets and such a role to play… it will deteriorate,” he said on the sidelines of the COP22 UN Climate Change Conference in the central Moroccan city of Marrakesh.

Hollande said that Trump’s presidential win last week and the United Kingdom’s recent vote to leave the European Union signified a global trend towards populism.

“I think that one should try to understand what happened in the United States, as well as what happened in the United Kingdom with Brexit. I think there is a temptation which is protectionist and isolationist in a number of countries… [It] exists in a number of developed countries, it exists in France, I know it,” he said.

'Dialogue' with Trump

Hollande, however, stressed the importance of France remaining open to the outside world, especially economically.

“We must provide a future for our country that is not closed, but open based on our strengths, because it is in our interest, and in the interest of France to play our role in the world, and to have our companies gaining markets and exporting throughout the world,” he said. “I don’t want a weak economy. When you have a weak economy, you can’t have strong diplomacy”.

Asked specifically about Trump, Hollande said he had spoken on the phone to the president-elect, who appeared “to want a dialogue”.

“There was one specific point we discussed, and that was that fighting terrorism should be our shared objective,” he said. “From that point of view the United States has always been our ally and our partner, and that will continue.”

State of emergency

Hollande added that he wanted to prolong the country’s state of emergency – imposed following last year’s November 13 terror attacks in and around Paris – until after the presidential elections in April and May 2017.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said his government was going to ask parliament to extend the state of emergency beyond its January deadline.

Hollande refused to state whether he would seek re-election, keeping the country in suspense just two months before the left is expected to hold primary elections to nominate a candidate.

The president is the least popular French leader in recent history, with the latest opinion poll placing his approval rating at 11 percent in early November.

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