France's new President Emmanuel Macron officially took over the reins of power on Sunday, facing the challenges of a polarized country, high unemployment, terrorism and working with Germany to reform the EU.
The 39-year-old independent took over from outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande, who leaves office after five years as the most unpopular president in French history.
The former investment banker and economy minister in the Socialist government met privately with Hollande at the Elysee presidential palace to discuss sensitive issues, including the country's nuclear codes.
'Reformed, relaunched' EU
In his first speech as president, Macron spoke of providing "hope" and "confidence" after years in which people doubted themselves and French power. He also said the European Union would be "reformed and relaunched" during his term.
After the transfer of power, a 21-gun military salute echoed through Paris, kicking off a day of ceremonies, speeches, parades and meetings.
Next up, the hard work of governing begins. Macron plans to appoint a prime minister by Monday and a government on Tuesday. On Monday, he will also head to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, highlighting the importance of the Franco-German relationship at the heart of an embattled EU.
New electoral challenge
But to push through his ambitious and controversial reform agenda, Macron will have to run another campaign for June parliamentary elections that French media are dubbing a "third round of the presidential election."
Macron won the second round of presidential elections last week, but he is aware that many voters backed him only to thwart Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National.
The new president will need a majority to push through his pro-business reform agenda, especially controversial labor reforms designed to battle persistently high unemployment.
He will come up against conservative Republicans, Socialists, the Front National, radical left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and powerful unions. The Republicans would like to force Macron into a coalition.
Macron's year-old En Marche! political movement, created for his presidential bid, plans to field candidates in nearly every district of the country.
This week it unveiled 428 of its 577 candidates, half of whom have no previous political experience. Macron said he wants fresh faces in politics.
cw/cmk (AFP, dpa, AP)