Last updated at 12:20 BST, Friday, 27 August 2010

Sarkozy faces increasing pressure

Summary

27 August 2010

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has returned to work after the summer break. He faces a series of increasing challenges, including criticism at home and abroad, pension reforms, spending cuts and strikes.

Reporter
Christian Fraser

Nicolas Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing increased criticism.

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Report

The end of August is La Rentree; traditionally the time when France returns to the office. Always an occasion for post-holiday blues, but especially so for this president and particularly this year. In the past two weeks his leadership has been questioned at home and abroad over his controversial plan to expel Roma gypsies. A cynical ploy, said opponents, to win back public favour.

The trouble is it's not working. The polls are against him; sections of his own party are against him; even the church has forsaken him on the issue of the Roma. And already the debate has begun on Mr Sarkozy's chances for 2012.

The president has to find 100 billion euros of cuts by 2013, to cut a hugely inflated budget deficit from 8 to 3% - within EU limits. The biggest challenge will be pension reform, and his plan to increase the age of retirement from 60 to 62; it's deeply unpopular.

Elected on a plan to fix the economy, this next two months will be the most critical point of Mr Sarkozy's presidency. Get it wrong, and many think he will struggle to recover.

Christian Fraser, BBC News, Paris

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Vocabulary

blues

feelings of sadness

controversial

something that causes disagreement

gypsies

members of a race of travelling people

cynical

insincere

polls

studies in which people are asked their opinions on a particular topic

forsaken

abandoned

debate

argument or serious discussion

budget deficit

shortage of money

pension

sum of money paid by the state or a private company to people who have stopped working

retirement

time of your life when you stop working completely

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