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General

France's Hollande eyes new hope in 2016 after tragic last year

media A screen shot of French President François Hollande during his annual New Year address from the Elysée Palace, December 31 2015 STRINGER / AFP

French President François Hollande on Thursday pledged to break with the "suffering" of 2015, marked by deadly terrorist attacks, and kick off 2016 on a more upbeat note. In his traditional New Year address to the nation, he vowed to protect the French people against the scourges of terrorism and ever rising unemployment.

"My first duty is to protect you," a sober François Hollande said on Thursday during his traditional annual address to the French nation.

"France is not done with terrorism", the Socialist president warned, noting that the terror threat "remains at its highest level".

The tone severe, and the camera shot very close on his face, Hollande presented himself as the nation's father, vowing to protect the country against the scourge of terrorism after a year marked by deadly attacks.

"Protecting you means attacking the root of the evil, in Syria and Iraq," he continued, promising to intensify France's air strikes against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the November 13 attacks.

His address came just six weeks after jihadist gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in coordinated assaults on Paris nightspots; the worst bloodshed on French soil.

Eleven months beforehand, other Islamist-State affiliated terrorists went on a deadly rampage in a kosher supermarket and the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

"These tragic events will remain for ever etched in our memories, they shall never disappear," he said. "But despite the tragedy, France has not given in. Despite the tears, the country has remained upright."

Hollande praised the nation's courage, saying he was proud of French men and women.

Yet, it's not sure how proud they are of him, especially in the realm of the economy.

The president once again vowed to tackle stubbornly high unemployment, but this time insisted the country was under "a state of economic and social emergency".

It's powerful rhetoric, but it's unlikely to go down well with the French, many of whom will remind Hollande that they've been under a state of emergency, at least where unemployment is concerned, since he took office in 2012.

Editorialists meanwhile, are already dissecting each word of his 9-minute speech, seen as a campaign launch for his re-election bid in 2017.

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