French President Hollande’s plane ‘hit by lightning’

PARIS, France (BBC News) – Newly sworn in French President Francois Hollande has been delayed in his journey to Berlin for key talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after his plane was hit by lightning. The plane was forced to turn back to Paris.

    French Defense Ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet said the Falcon 7X aircraft was struck by lightning shortly after take-off today, and returned to the Villacoublay air base for inspection. Defense officials say the president and his entourage were transferred to another aircraft, a Falcon 900, and took off shortly thereafter.

“The plane could have been hit by lightning,” a presidential spokesman told the AFP news agency. “For security reasons, it turned back. At this moment, the president is again en route.” No-one on board was hurt.

During his inauguration speech, Mr Hollande appealed for “a compromise” over the German-led focus on austerity. He called for an emphasis on “growth”.

Inauguration, ceremonies and brief delay in start of Hollande’s travel to Angela Merkel in Berlin

(France24) – Newly inaugurated French President François Hollande set off for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, just hours after being sworn in as the seventh president of France’s Fifth Republic.

His first official trip as head of state was briefly delayed, however, when his plane was forced to turn back after being struck by lightning en route to Berlin. The new president quickly swapped planes in Paris and was once again on his way. It was something of an inauspicious beginning for Hollande, 57, who is due to meet his German counterpart this evening for a “working dinner” at which the ongoing eurozone debt crisis is expected to be at the top of the agenda.

After waving goodbye to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande signed the notice of the formal handover of power and headed into the Elysée Palace ballroom, where a number of selected guests were there to greet him.

In his first speech as president and with his evening showdown with Merkel in mind, Hollande wasted no time in reaffirming his position on the future of Europe. “Europe needs plans. It needs solidarity. It needs growth,” he said in front of millions of TV viewers who tuned in for the event.

Low-key handover

Hollande had arrived at the Elysée Palace at 10am where he was greeted by the man he defeated to become president of France just 10 days ago. Nicolas Sarkozy ushered his successor into a private chamber for a brief handover where sensitive dossiers and the country’s nuclear codes were formally entrusted to the new head of state.

Hollande’s official swearing-in ceremony was a swift low-key service after which he was joined by his partner, the journalist Valérie Trierweiler.

Once all the necessary papers had been signed Hollande was driven up the Champs Elysées in an open-topped classic Citreon car accompanied by a troop of guards on horseback. Despite the stormy weather a rain-soaked Hollande remained upbeat, waving and smiling to the crowds who had lined the famous avenue.

Naming the Prime Minister

Then as the sun came out Hollande continued his journey around the French capital by heading to the Hôtel de Ville on the banks of the river Seine where the mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë and around 400 invited guests gave him a standing ovation.

One of those guests, Jean-Marc Ayrault, was officially named as the new French prime minister at around 5pm, in what proved to be the president’s first significant decision of his presidency.

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