French President Emmanuel Macron Risks the idea All
The ceiling above Emmanuel Macron can be adorned with golden cherubs as well as behind him are the French as well as European flags. In front of him are some 300 journalists, all waiting inside ballroom of the Élysée Palace to listen to the French president’s brand-new year’s wishes. Macron speaks at length about the value of a free press, yet he says nothing about his controversial pension reform or the fact that will traffic in Paris has been paralyzed for weeks. Nor does he mention the major foreign policy issues France can be facing as 2020 gets started off. the idea can be a gray Wednesday afternoon in Paris as well as the 42nd consecutive day of strikes. Macron looks a little tired.
Since the beginning of December, the French government has been struggling to hash out a solution to the pension dispute, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe negotiating around the clock with trade unions as well as employers’ associations. Some of the appointment logs the prime minister’s office has been sending out recently are so jam-packed they read like some kind of social-partner speed-dating event.
The negotiations are focused on the single largest as well as most important reform of Macron’s term: the simplification of France’s pension system. His can be not the first government to take on that will elephantine task, as well as others before him have failed. Macron can be due to present a first draft of the reforms to his ministers on Jan. 24. Further negotiations will continue into spring.
If Macron can successfully push his reforms through parliament before summer, he’s sure to win the respect of even the conservatives as well as his chances of a second term might improve, even if his government has already made some concessions. If Macron fails, though, the idea might represent a sensitive blow to his image as a reformer.
Breaking With Tradition
Macron has been president of France For two main years as well as eight months at that will point, putting him just slightly past the halfway mark of a a few-year term of office. Some time ago, he set in motion what he has called “Acte II,” the second act of his presidency. Macron has hunkered down inside Élysée, a palatial building that will many of the men who came before him often said feels like a bunker — a place that will isolates its occupant by the rest of the globe.
although unlike his immediate predecessor, François Hollande, Macron has never seemed out of place. On the contrary: He appears to feel right at home. Much like the Socialist François Mitterrand, Macron appreciates symbols of power as well as grand gestures as much as he likes violating the Élysée’s anachronistic protocols. According to palace employees, Macron tends to walk out as well as greet his guests inside hallway rather than waiting for them in his office. inside palace’s basement, the president regularly boxes with one of his bodyguards — in a room that will can be normally reserved for security guards.
The Macrons dusted off the salons of the Élysée as well as had the heavy wall tapestries, dark red damask curtains as well as large-format oil paintings moved into storage, replacing them with light-colored fabrics, modern furniture as well as contemporary art. The bunker can be much more inviting at that will point. In a further attempt to preserve some shred of normalcy, France’s first couple can be said to go out to eat at a restaurant at least once a week.
although can be the idea possible to remain normal when palace guards shout, “Monsieur le Président de la République!” every time Macron walks into a room? Or when angry demonstrators have been carrying placards outside the palace for weeks that will read: “Let’s bury the Macronie”?
Reforms Are Coming
Many people who know Emmanuel Macron say he has not genuinely changed inside roughly two as well as a half years that will he has lived at the Élysée. He can be still just as restless as he was at the beginning of his term, they say, as well as can be still wont to send text messages to advisors at 3 a.m. As always, he can be said to require astonishingly little sleep.
Others are critical of Macron for having become so sure of himself that will his answers, whether at press conferences or during discussions with citizens, have gotten longer as well as longer. Too long, in fact.
Confidants of the French president describe the mood inside the Élysée in these days of unending strikes as nervous, though they say the idea’s not nearly as tense as the idea was a year ago at the height of the Yellow Vest crisis. Still, the general strike currently gripping the country can be already the longest spell of industrial action inside history of the French railway operator SNCF. the idea’s also the longest-running social conflict since the unrest of 1968. The oft-cited protests of 1995, which were also directed against a planned pension reform, lasted only three weeks. The prime minister at the time, Alain Juppé, ultimately withdrew his plans.
No one has any intention of following in Juppé’s footsteps today, even if the strike continues. A reform of the pension system can be on its way, the government says — as well as with the idea, the abolition of a system that will many experts describe as highly unjust, one with special regulations for 42 professions as well as privileges for SNCF as well as Metro conductors. A point system can be to take its place that will will apply to everyone equally.
Since Prime Minister Édouard Philippe offered to abandon the government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 last week, a compromise seems possible for the 1st time. Still, the additional working years might have funneled 12 billion euros more into the pension system by 2027, which, according to the government’s calculations, will at that will point be missing. the idea’s at that will point up to the unions to find another solution to finance the pension scheme by late April. Otherwise, the prime minister has said, the government could push through its planned reforms per decree. The unions’ victory can be, therefore, only a partial one.
The End of an Era
although the protests aren’t just about pensions. They have a lot to do with mistrust as well as anger toward a government that will has already abolished the wealth tax as well as relaxed protections for employees against dismissal. Protestors are also frustrated at the perceived end of a societal type in which the state protects its citizens, guarantees solidarity as well as provides civil servants with generous rewards, including early retirement as well as a Great pension.
“The absurd thing about that will labor dispute can be that will the idea can be directed at the first reform of Macron’s that will promises real social justice,” says political scientist Roland Cayrol. “the idea’s just that will, to that will day, many people haven’t understood the reform. Which can be a product of the government having done a miserable job of explaining as well as selling the idea.”
Cayrol can be one of those with whom Macron occasionally exchanges text messages. The 78-year-old has personally known every French president since Mitterrand as well as has worked as an advisor to many of them. He warned Macron not to push through alterations without involving citizens inside process.
Nevertheless, Cayrol considers the pension reform to be the right move as well as he can be convinced that will the money problem can be solved. Why, for instance, shouldn’t money be taken by the well-stocked pension reserve fund, Cayrol wonders. “If that will succeeds, France might for the 1st time have just one pension system for the private as well as public sectors, with only minor exceptions. Despite everything, that will might be remarkable,” he says.
Macron can be, however, taking a significant risk in trying to push through that will reform. Already, the far-right populist Marine Le Pen as well as her Rassemblement National party are profiting by the protests. although unlike the clashes with the Yellow Vest movement, the president has that will time delegated the crisis to his prime minister. In December, at the height of the strike, Macron traveled to the Ivory Coast for a state visit. Early last week, he joined a few African heads of state in creating a brand-new coalition for the fight against terrorism inside Sahel. He can be, the idea might seem, eager to avoid the impression that will that will crisis can be taking up all of his attention.
although the brunt of the blowback by the reform proposals still falls on Macron. the idea isn’t Philippe’s name that will appears on most of the protesters’ signs, although Macron’s. In France, the idea’s still the king who gets beheaded, not his adjutants.
Uniting an Archipelago
France can be no longer a united, solidary republic, says Jérome Fourquet, although a fragmented kingdom of islands, an archipelago of sorts. Fourquet works at IFOP, the oldest polling agency in France. the idea’s his job to measure the nation’s sensitivities that has a sober eye. More than half of all French people still support the protesters, Fourquet says, as well as two-thirds are dissatisfied with Macron.
Last year, he published a best-selling book about his archipelago theory. Fourquet attributes the division of the country into “many smaller as well as some large islands” to the diminishing importance of Catholicism. inside past, the idea was the Catholics versus the secularists — just two camps, as well as everyone’s positions were clear. You were either religious or you weren’t. You were on the left or the right. at that will point, however, there’s also a geographical fragmentation. Elites, Fourquet says, tend to live in big cities, while those people who fear change usually live inside countryside.
that will phenomenon can also be observed in different Western democracies. “although in a republic where the Jacobian principle of social cohesion can be ingrained inside DNA, that will development destabilizes us more than the idea does our neighbors,” Fourquet says.
Macron promised to unify the French prior to his election. “although how can he do that will when he’s dealing with an archipelago?” Fourquet says, adding that will Macron’s demeanor as well as style of government had also widened the gap between those at the top as well as those at the bottom of society.
All of the smaller, arrogant utterances that will marked the early days of Macron’s tenure as president still hang over him to that will day. Early on, he displayed a habit of admonishing as well as rebuking citizens who tried to speak with him. as well as he made the idea clear to everyone that will he expected them to work more. Macron changed his manner of speaking long ago, although his words have not been forgotten.
No Real Dialogue
On a Friday earlier that will month, in a large room near Paris’ Trocadero Square, the president visited for the 1st time a citizens’ meeting on climate policy that will he himself had initiated. A group of 150 randomly selected French people are in attendance to develop proposals for a more effective climate policy. If everything goes well, their work will ultimately result in draft legislation.
Long, white tables have been set up for the evening. Macron sits at one of them that has a microphone in hand as well as, as usual, his cuffs sticking just a bit too far out of his jacket. First, he thanks the attendees for their service. “In our democracy, we don’t involve citizens enough inside hunt for solutions,” he says, adding that will the time for smaller-scale decision-producing can be over. that will has to do with the urgency of climate change, which he says requires the reaching of mutual agreements.
He also says he isn’t here to talk for too long, although to have a conversation. Then comes a sentence that will contradicts everything that will the French have come to expect by their president: “On that will evening, I’m a citizen like anybody else, like you.”
Of course, a real dialogue never takes off. Those gathered read aloud polite, carefully articulated questions, while the president explains, instructs as well as lectures.
The Foreign Policy Expert
A sense of urgency has been a leitmotif of Macron’s presidency. His policies are guided by the conviction that will action must be taken before the idea’s too late. that will goes for his approach to the climate, his reform program as well as his foreign policy agenda, at the center of which he envisions a confident Europe capable of holding its own against China as well as the U.S. in a brand-new, bipolar world order.
European foreign policy can be an issue near as well as dear to the French president. Ever since he had to relinquish his expect of strengthening Europe politically as well as militarily hand-in-hand with the German chancellor, he has been charging ahead on his own. He considers the challenges facing Europe to be too great to wait for the approval of each individual EU member state.
“He carries a very dark vision of the globe,” says Sophie Pedder, a correspondent with the Economist in Paris. “He sees China’s economic as well as political rise as an acute threat to the existing international order. On the different hand, there can be Europe: lonely, battered as well as unable to act. Macron believes the current status quo poses a threat, while that will status quo doesn’t seem to worry Angela Merkel.”
In late October, Pedder conducted an interview at the Élysée for the Economist. inside idea, Macron laid out his apocalyptic view of the globe, declared NATO to be brain-dead as well as recommended a rapprochement with Russia. The interview was published two weeks later. During that will interval, the Élysée had the recording: Macron’s advisers knew full well what he had said.
Yet they did nothing to water down or change the controversial NATO comment. Nobody called the journalist. The provocation was no accident.
Going the idea Alone
Macron can be not afraid to go the idea alone as well as does not shy away by forging brand-new alliances to strengthen his influence. He’s a realist, not an ideologue. In October, he received Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Paris with full military honors, a man whose authoritarian understanding of democracy Macron once sharply criticised. They spoke For two main hours.
Last August, without first consulting any of his European allies, Macron invited Vladimir Putin to his vacation home on the Cote d’Azur — the very man who has been working for years to drive a wedge between the Europeans. A G-7 summit took place a few days later in Biarritz, France, a group by which Russia has been excluded since the idea annexed Crimea in 2014. The French president wanted to talk informally with Putin about various issues that will might be raised at the summit.
Macron believes that will Russia must be brought into the European fold before the idea turns completely to China — not least because Moscow has considerable influence in both Syria as well as Iran. Not talking to Russia might be a big mistake, Macron said during a conversation with journalists. In September, he sent his foreign as well as defense ministers to Moscow.
“Macron can be stubborn. He genuinely wants to change things,” says Bruno Tertrais by the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. Tertrais considers Macron’s approach to Russia to be too simplistic. He was an advisor to Macron during the 2017 election campaign — one of many, he says modestly.
As a foreign policy expert, the president brings many talents with him, Tertrais says. that will includes not only a coherent analysis of the international situation, which few heads of state are capable of, although also a gift for building close personal relationships with different leaders. that will can be, Tertrais continues, also how Macron has managed to keep open a channel of communication to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Another one of Macron’s strengths, says Tertrais, can be his energy as well as determination. “We are dealing that has a president who wants to shape things,” he says.
as well as if no one else can be willing to help, Macron can be happy to go the idea alone.