On 7 November the French President François Hollande launched the programme of events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, using the opportunity to draw lessons – as he sees them – for the national priorities of today. Under the slogan ‘réformer, réunir, réussir’ (reform, unite, succeed) Hollande concluded that only unity – of the kind that united the nation during the war – would overcome the problems that France faces today, problems that are no longer military but economic and that threaten France’s future and place in the world. Hollande hoped his call for national reconciliation and mobilisation might counter the mounting social protests (for example the ‘red bonnets’ of the Breton movement) and personal unpopularity he faces. It has drawn criticism from some on the left, however, for its exploitation of militarism and from some historians for its amnesia concerning the internal fractures that marked the conflict.
The programme of events will include the participation of the 72 belligerent nations in the 14 July parades and on 3 August, date of the beginning of the war, the visit of the German President.