In an interview with Slate.fr just before he was elected president of France, François Hollande claimed that he spoke English "more fluently than the former President". He then added, "But a French president has to speak French!", which sounds like he's trying to have his cake and eat it too.
Moreover, since Nicolas Sarkozy's English is—let's be kind—not very good (see clip), saying that you're more fluent than him doesn't mean very much. So the obvious question is: Just how well does François Hollande speak English? Hard evidence is thin on the ground, but after scouring the web for all of five minutes, I came up with this very brief exchange (in English) with BBC correspondent Gavin Hewitt.
HEWITT: Speaking to François Hollande after his final rally, he told me that the French people were not afraid of Socialism. What will a Socialist president do?
HOLLANDE: He must create confidence. It's the first aim... he must achieve.
HEWITT: In the markets?
HOLLANDE: In the people first.
Even from this short exchange, it is clear that Hollande speaks English with a fairly strong French accent. He also speaks rather hesitantly, though he does that in French as well. On the plus side, he doesn't make any grammatical mistakes, and correctly partners the verb 'achieve' with the noun 'aim' ('achieve' is a false friend for French speakers since the French verb 'achever' means 'to finish or complete'). It's a pity we don't have a longer sample, but judging from this evidence, Hollande 'speaks English like a Frenchman, with an accent' (his own words!).
We know that the French are traditionally very protective of their language, but is Hollande justified in saying that 'a French president has to speak French'? After all, Tony Blair congratulated Sarkozy on his victory in the 2007 election with a three-minute video message in French. And even Margaret Thatcher had a go! On the other hand, Mitt Romney was attacked for speaking French, so perhaps discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to politicians speaking in other tongues ...
During his meeting in the Oval office with Obama last Friday, Hollande spoke through an interpreter, but he did make a joke in English at the end (at 0:20 on this video).