A wave of relief swept over much of France and Europe when president Emmanuel Macron was re-elected on Sunday night, defeating the extreme right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen by 58.5 to 41.5 per cent.
His victory was "magnificent news for all of Europe", Italian prime minister Mario Draghi said.
Mr Macron walked to a podium beneath the Eiffel Tower holding the hand of his wife Brigitte as the European anthem played. He thanked those who had re-elected him so as "to bring about our project for a more independent France, a stronger Europe".
The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first to telephone his congratulations to Mr Macron, in what the Élysée Palace called "a mark of Franco-German friendship".
Tradition dictates that Mr Macron's first trip abroad will be to Berlin to see the chancellor. Ms Le Pen had intended to halt co-operation with Germany and promised to go first to Brussels to renegotiate treaties.
Mr Macron’s victory was somewhat tarnished by the record 28 per cent abstention rate, and by the fact that the extreme right had won its highest score in a presidential election. Mr Macron reached out to those who voted for him for want of a better alternative, and to Ms Le Pen’s voters, saying he knew that many voted for him “not because they support my ideas, but to block those of the extreme right”.
Among the first steps taken by Mr Macron five years ago were the abolition of the wealth tax on capital investments, the reform of the labour code to make it easier to fire workers, and a reduction of the housing allowance. These measures resulted in him being called “the president of the rich”.
Mr Macron promised on Sunday night that “this new era will not be the continuation of the term that is ending, but the collective invention of a new method for five better years in the service of our country, of our youth”. Nearly two-thirds of under-25 year olds voted for Ms Le Pen or for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round on April 10th.
Mr Macron stopped his supporters from booing Ms Le Pen and those who voted for her. “Do not boo anyone,” he said. “From the beginning I asked you never to boo. Because from this moment I am no longer the candidate of one camp, but the president of everyone.”
The French leader said he would address “the anger and disagreement” which led some 12 million voters to choose Ms Le Pen. On the night of his election five years ago, Mr Macron vowed to do his utmost to prevent the French voting for extreme parties. But Ms Le Pen bettered her previous score by 7.5 per cent and anti-system parties won two-thirds of the vote in the first round.
Aside from Europe, Mr Macron made only one reference to foreign policy, saying that "the war in Ukraine is there to remind us that we are living through tragic times when France must make her voice heard and her choice clear... and we will do it."
The Egyptian mezzo-soprano Farrah El Dibany sang the Marseillaise after Mr Macron's speech. Ms Le Pen had promised to stop immigration and discriminate against foreigners in France.