President Macron under fire from "unyielding Gauls"
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French President Emmanuel Macron was criticised for using an Asterix comic-book analogy to describe resistance in France to his labour and welfare reforms.
Unyielding Gauls vs Modern Lutherans
Emmanuel Macron invoked the famous Asterix comics series on Wednesday, complimenting "Lutheran" (Protestant) Danish people who have been open to changes of the last century, as opposed to "unyielding Gauls" who resist all change.
The statement, made in the presence of Denmark's Queen Margrethe II, was followed Thursday by indignant reactions from his opponents in France.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said the French President was "mocking the French from abroad", while right-wing Laurent Wauquiez of the Les Republicains party declared it was "unacceptable" to hear the President criticise his own people instead of being an ambassador of his country abroad.
The remark echoed previous comments by Macron saying the French "hate reforms" and that the country is "unreformable"
On a state visit to Finland Thursday, Macron defended his comments, saying it was just humour.
"It's not mockery to say things as they are". He insisted that France, including himself, did not like change, but "knew how to bring about change during key moments in history".
The French, he said, stand out for their "taste in intelligence, humour, irony and self-ridicule".
Denmark and French social models
Macron has been trying to reform labour and social welfare laws in the country. These reforms were "inspired" by the Danish social systen, the Elysée palace declared this week.
Macron has praised the "flexi-curity" (flexibility and security) of the Danish system, which is very different from the French social model.
For example, Denmark is a country where an employer can dismiss staff by sending an SMS on the day itself. The employee in return receives very substantial amounts of social aid and unemployment benefits. So much so that the cost of someone losing his job is almost insignificant.
In France, on the other hand it is extremely complicated to fire an employee. As a result, employers are reticent to sign permanent contracts.
Also, social welfare and unemployment benefits in France are far less generous than in Denmark. For example, If an employee resigns in France he is not entitled to any unemployment benefits, which is not the case in Denmark.
As a result, many Danish change jobs regularly, which in France is not common.
Macron is trying to pass laws in France that would allow unemployment benefits to resignees, and also allow employers to fire their staff more easily.
However, the French labour unions are up in arms against him.
Defiant Gauls call for strike
In response to Macron's statement about Gauls, Pascal Pavageau, leader of the Worker's Force trade union, defined himself as an "unyielding Gaul".
"We are in 2018 AD", he said. "All Gaul has been invaded by Jupiterians. All? No There are many unyielding Gauls who are attached to social progress" Pavageau said.
"Life is not easy for the garrisons of the French government", he said, "because we have a magic potion."
Pavageau also declared his intention for a workers' strike in October.
Obelix would probably have asked him for a wild boar roast.
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