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Sarkozy avoids research in New Year address

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has evaded the scrutiny of researchers by focusing his New Year education and research speech on schools and secondary education.

Sarkozy’s annual addresses have been the subject close attention since 2009, when he delivered a controversial message condemning French researchers as lazy. The following year he delivered another harsh message on research reform. In 2011 he chose to discuss research in his main speech to the nation rather than in a separate address.

To mark the beginning of 2012—a year in which he will run for re-election—Sarkozy spoke mainly of improving schools, making the system fairer for pupils from all backgrounds, and on education’s “crisis of identity”.

The few references to research during his speech at the Futuroscope science theme park in Poitiers on 5 January looked to the major investments being made through his government’s €35 billion stimulus package.

“In five years we will have a significant number of world-class universities,” said Sarkozy. “These changes were judged impossible. They said France was in irreversible decline, confronted by the American or Asian steamroller.”

But, Sarkozy said, France had become the most attractive destination for innovative companies because of its generous R&D tax credit scheme and was second in Europe for attracting business investment from abroad.

Sarkozy described the world climate as a “crisis of civilisation”, which had exposed modern society as obsessed with short-term gains at the expense of the long term. Education and research, he added, were means to help France regain control of its destiny.

Sarkozy conceded that “not everything is going well” but did not elaborate further on areas for improvement, instead listing projects being funded through the stimulus package.