Emmanuel Macron has taken power as president of France, vowing to restore the country’s status and heal divisions following a bitter campaign the pro-EU centrist fought to defeat a far-right leader.
The 39-year-old former investment banker was inaugurated leader of the world’s fifth-largest economy in a solemn Elysee Palace ceremony on Sunday.
Macron beat the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in a May 7 run-off vote but the long campaign exposed deep divisions over France’s role in Europe, immigration, and policies to revive a sluggish economy bedevilled by high unemployment.
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“The division and fractures in our society must be overcome. I know that the French expect much from me. Nothing will make me stop defending the higher interests of France and from working to reconcile the French,” Macron declared in his first words after taking office.
Although his victory over Le Pen was comfortable, almost half of France’s 47 million voters chose candidates with views opposed to Macron’s in the first round of the election.
A convinced European integrationist unlike Le Pen and other leadership candidates, Macron went on: “The world and Europe need more than ever France, and a strong France, which speaks out loudly for freedom and solidarity.”
Seeking closer ties with EU anchor nation Germany, Macron will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday.