PARIS - French President Francois Hollande announced his separation from first lady Valerie Trierweiler on Saturday following a media storm over allegations he is having an affair with an actress.
“I wish to make it known that I have ended my partnership with Valerie Trierweiler,” he told the state-backed Agence France Presse news agency. Hollande sought to put an end to turbulence that began two weeks ago when celebrity magazine Closer published a report that he was having an affair with film actress and Socialist Party supporter Julie Gayet.
Questions over Hollande’s personal life - and whether Trierweiler was still first lady - have diverted public attention from a shift the president made this month towards more business-friendly policies aimed at reviving the euro zone’s second-biggest economy in the face of high unemployment. A press conference to unveil the economic plans was overshadowed by questions over Hollande’s private life, as was a trip to Rome to meet the pope on Friday.
Trierweiler, 48, remains holed up in a presidential residence in Versailles outside Paris after leaving hospital last Saturday, where she was treated for a bout of “tiredness” brought on by press revelations of Hollande’s affair with actress Julie Gayet, 41.
Trierweiler is due to fly to Mumbai on Sunday for a charity trip organised by French relief organisation Action Against Hunger, in what will be her first public appearance since the scandal broke. Hollande, 59, announced his separation from Segolene Royal, a senior member of his Socialist party and a presidential candidate in 2007, just after she lost the election to Nicolas Sarkozy. Trierweiler is not married to Hollande but assumed the role of First Lady at official functions after Hollande’s election in 2012.
Announcing the separation, Hollande said he was speaking as an individual and not as head of state since it concerned his private life. Trierweiler, a 48-year old arts columnist for weekly magazine Paris Match, was not married to Hollande but they had been together since 2006. She assumed the role of first lady at official functions following his election in May 2012.
Trierweiler did not immediately respond to the announcement, but planned to travel to India on Sunday for a charity trip. French media reports said Trierweiler, who was hospitalised for eight days for fatigue after news of the affair broke, may speak at a press conference in India on Sunday.
Hollande, 59, is the most unpopular president in modern France, according to polls. He has struggled to live up to a promise to get unemployment, currently stuck near 11 percent, firmly on a downward trend. He has four children from a previous relationship with Segolene Royal, a senior member of his Socialist Party and a 2007 presidential candidate. Royal announced their separation just after she lost the 2007 election to Nicolas Sarkozy.