Nicolas Sarkozy took office as president of France on May 16th 2007, ten days after winning the post in a runoff that pitted the then leader of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) against Socialist Party contender Segolene Royal. He succeeded Jacques Chirac, who had held office since 1995.
Born on January 28th 1955, Nicolas Paul Stephane Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa is the son of an exiled Hungarian aristocrat and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin. He obtained his Master's degree in private law in 1978 and his qualifying title as a lawyer in 1981, when he also got his PhD in political science from the Paris Institute of Political Studies.
In 1977, Sarkozy became a municipal councilor in Neuilly-sur-Seine. At the age of 28, he was elected mayor of that affluent Parisian suburb, serving in that post from 1983 to 2002.
From 1986 to 1988, Sarkozy acted as vice-president of the department council of Hauts-de-Seine, in charge of culture, and as deputy of Hauts-de-Seine (6th constituency) from 1988 to 2002. Two years later, he was elected president of the general council of Hauts-de-Seine.
In 1988, Sarkozy became national secretary of Chirac's Rally for the Republic (RPR), in charge of youth and training, and in 1989, the party's national secretary in charge of youth activities, youth and training. Between 1992 and 1993, he was RPR vice-general secretary in charge of regional federations.
Sarkozy, who became a member of the RPR political bureau in 1993, became the party's secretary-general in 1998, then served as its interim president from April 1999 to October that year. In May 2000, he was elected president of the RPR departmental commission.
Sarkozy served as budget minister from 1993 to 1995 and minister of communication from 1994 to 1995 under Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, acting also as government spokesman throughout that period.
In May 2002, he became interior minister in Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government, holding that post until 2004, when he was appointed minister of economy, finance and industry. He resigned from that post on November 29th the same year, a day after being elected president of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the successor of the RPR, also led by Chirac.
In April 2004, Sarkozy was elected president of the general council of Hauts-de-Seine.
In June 2005, he was again appointed interior minister, serving under Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. A tough-talking defender of law and order, he showed a hard stance during the 2005 riots in Paris and pushed through measures aimed at curbing illegal immigration, while promoting the integration of skilled migrants into French society.
In January 2007, the UMP made Sarkozy its official candidate for the presidential election on April 22nd the same year. During the campaign he pledged to replace corruption and nepotism in the country with an "irreproachable republic", if elected.
He received the largest number of votes in the first round, but not enough to win the post outright.
In the runoff on May 6th, 2007, he received 53% of the vote.
"I will fight for a Europe that protects because the European ideal is to protect the citizens of Europe," Sarkozy said after he was sworn in on May 16th 2007.
On July 1st 2008, France took over the presidency of the EU from Slovenia.
He is married and has three sons.