Hollande's election coincided with the vote in Greece that spawned the current political chaos in Athens and moved Greece closer to the possibility of abandoning the euro, the currency used by it and 16 other European Union countries.
Hollande's professed doubts about the fiscal austerity advocated by Merkel, whose party suffered defeat in a vote Sunday in Germany's largest state, have raised questions about whether Paris and Berlin will read from the same script.
Hollande has wasted no time addressing the matter.
Upcoming events include a Group of Eight meeting and NATO summit this month, followed by a G-20 gathering and a European Council meeting in June.
His approach is expected to affect policy in Afghanistan as well as Turkey and the Middle East.
With Sarkozy, the United States enjoyed support for its positions on Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. Sarkozy also was a proponent of the NATO air campaign in Libya.
Hollande, meanwhile, has yet to stake out all of his foreign policy positions.
During the election campaign, he pledged to withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.
He can expect NATO leaders to urge him to soften his position when he attends the summit in Chicago this month, the focus of which will be Afghanistan.
Relations between Turkey and France have been tense because of Sarkozy's apparent opposition to Turkey becoming a member of the European Union. Legislation passed during his presidency that made the denial of the Armenian genocide a crime also raised hackles in Ankara.
Some observers expect Hollande to show more flexibility on Turkey.
Domestically, Hollande has to prove to the French public that he is capable of acting on his promise to bring people together after Sarkozy's presidency, which often polarized opinion.
Voting in the first round of the presidential election showed large numbers of voters turning to parties on the far left and right of the political spectrum.
That scenario could be repeated in legislative elections to be held next month, where Hollande's Socialist Party can secure a majority in parliament that would allow him to push through his agenda.