French President Francois Hollande defended the principles of democracy and the rule of law in a dig at predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy who has called for constitutional changes that would tighten security in the face of the threat of terrorism.

“Freedom is not a handicap, it’s our strength,” Hollande said in a speech in Paris. “We must assure security but without giving up living how we want. The terrorists have launched not one challenge but two: to defeat them, and to remain ourselves.”

The remarks marked both a shift from the more authoritarian rhetoric that Hollande used in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris last November and the Socialist president’s first segue into the election battle that has begun in earnest in recent weeks. As part of that fight, Sarkozy has called for potential terrorists to be locked up and for the constitution to be changed to allow body covering beachwear for Muslim women to be banned.

“Our laws are sufficient and must be applied,” Hollande said. “No, constitutional principles are not just legal niceties.”

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