Paris: Nicolas Sarkozy took over on 16 May 2007 as president of France from Jacques Chirac, vowing to usher in a period of deep reforms to lift France out of its economic and social malaise.
On his first foreign trip to Germany just a few hours later, Sarkozy told Chancellor Angela Merkel he wanted to lift the European Union out of its institutional paralysis.
In a symbolic handover of powers, Chirac passed on the launch codes to France’s nuclear arsenal and briefed his fellow right-winger on current agenda items before being driven from the Elysee palace for the last time.
A 21-gun salute rang out from the Invalides esplanade across the river Seine, as the official results of Sarkozy’s election victory were read out to an audience of invited guests in the palace’s ornate main reception hall.
“The people have given me a mandate. I will carry it out. I will carry it out scrupulously, with the desire to be worthy of the trust that the French have placed in me,” he said in an inaugural address.
“There is a demand for change. Never have the risks of inertia been so great for France as they are now in this world in flux where everyone across the world is trying to change quicker than the others, where any delay can be fatal.”
Among guests at the Elysee were Sarkozy’s wife Cecilia, their 10-year-old son Louis and the four grown-up children they have from previous marriages. A small crowd lined the street outside.
The new president rekindled the flame of the tomb of the unknown soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe and laid a wreath at the statues of former presidents Georges Clemenceau and Charles de Gaulle.
Sarkozy was driven to the Bois de Boulogne, a wooded park on the western edge of Paris, for a ceremony to commemorate 35 young men who were killed in a German ambush in August 1944.
He then left for Berlin for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on relauching the European Union, after French and Dutch voters rejected a EU constitution in referendums two years ago.
“Europe must be shaken from its paralysis as a matter of urgency,” Sarkozy said at a joint press conference with Merkel.
Sarkozy said he would work to maintain and strengthen the relationship between Germany and France, whose partnership is often described as the driving force behind the EU.
“I want to say to the German people that the friendship between France and Germany is sacred and that nothing can call it into doubt,” he said.