Paris: Facing a tough election fight in four months, French President Nicolas Sarkozy kicked off the New Year warning voters 2012 was "full of risks" and that France's future will hang in the balance.
France entered an unpredictable election year on Sunday, with polls showing Sarkozy's main contender, Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, leading in the race for the presidency.
"What is happening in the world announces that 2012 will be a year full of risks but also full of possibilities. Full of hope, if we know how to face the challenges. Full of dangers, if we stand still," Sarkozy said during the last New Year's Eve address of his first term.
"France's destiny could once again be tipped" in 2012, Sarkozy said, highlighting his experience in dealing with the eurozone debt crisis.
"Emerging from the crisis, building a new model for growth, giving birth to a new Europe -- these are some of the challenges that await us," he said.
With the crisis and the French economy set to take centre stage in the vote, right-wing Sarkozy also sought to steal some thunder from the left, vowing action on unemployment and saying the financial sector would not set French policy.
He promised "important decisions" on fighting joblessness before the end of January, after new figures last week showed unemployment at a 12-year high, with the number of registered jobseekers in France hitting 2.84 million.
And he hit back at attacks claiming his government has gone too far to appease financial markets and credit rating agencies to maintain France's cherished triple-A credit rating.
"I say this for everyone to hear -- neither the markets nor the agencies will decide French policies," he said.
After imposing two deficit-cutting packages aimed at saving a total of USD 93 billion since August, Sarkozy also said no new austerity measures would be announced in 2012.
"The problem is not one of a new package of spending cuts in the coming year. The government has done what needed to be done," he said.
First Published: Sunday, January 01, 2012, 22:08