Emmanuel Macron’s opponents call him lost without a compass, but the French president keeps trying to get back on track, using the same method each time. Having faced difficult situations from external incidents (Covid-19, the War in Ukraine), as well as the chaos created by his own decisions (yellow vests protests, pension reform), the French president let the storm subsidize before speaking. On Monday, April 17, at 8:00 pm, the “president of crises” once again tried to clear the air by moving on from the issue of pension reform and continues the remainder of his tumultuous term. “Is this reform accepted? Obviously not,” he admitted from the start, as if he were summing up the political impasse in which he finds himself, while trying to find a way out. “The answer can be neither in the immobility, nor in the extremism.”
Through his classic format of a 15-minute address, Macron was able to quickly move on from the topic of the pension reform enacted on Friday night. After twelve days of working and with May 1 quickly approaching, the Elysée stands by its position that this legislation was “necessary” and that the protests in the street revealed a much broader frustration beyond the increase of the retirement age to 64 years. “I heard in the demonstrations an opposition to the pension reform but also a desire to find meaning in work, to improve conditions, to have careers that allow progress in life,” Macron said before referring to the “anger (…) toward rising prices, gasoline, groceries, dining”: “Nobody, especially not me, can ignore these cries of social justice.”
While protesters were making themselves heard in the streets or from their windows by banging on pots and pans – an initiative of the Attac movement led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party La France Insoumise (LFI) -, the Elysée began writing a new chapter, hoping to gradually involve the political, social and media forces. In this speech, which sometimes sounded like a campaign speech or an end-of-year progress report, the French president discussed three projects: a “new pact of life at work (…) by social dialogue”; delinquency and illegal immigration; and “progress for better living.”
He views the future labor law as a response to the current crisis. Macron is hoping this legislation will bring the social partners back to the table to discuss, “without any limits, without any taboos,” the unresolved issues of the pension reform, such as employee income, career advancement, wealth sharing, improved working conditions, professional wear and tear and employment of senior citizens. But on these issues, the president appears to be alone for the moment. Despite inviting to the Elysée Palace the employers’ and trade unions’ organizations “that are ready,” on Tuesday, April 18, the inter-union group has already responded negatively. Only the employers’ representatives will come.
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