France's Macron plots new course amid cabinet reshuffle, calls for conciliation
In an interview with regional newspapers on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron outlined his vision for the last two years of his mandate, admitting that the health crisis was a game-changer. The exchange came just hours ahead of a cabinet reshuffle.
French President Emmanuel Macron admitted that the Covid-19 health crisis "changed" him, prompting a rethink of economic, social, cultural and environmental objectives for the country.
"The new phase entails new goals of independence, reconstruction, reconciliation and new methods. Behind that there will be a new team," Macron told La Montagne newspaper.
A process that "would only be meaningful if each and every citizen was involved in a common project," he said.
That new team will be announced as part of a government reshuffle which comes on the heels of last Sunday’s second round of local elections, in which Macron’s LREM party lost ground to Green and left-wing candidates in big cities.
Prime Minister steps down
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe stepped down late Thursday as part of the expected reshuffle, despite winning his seat for the ruling party in Le Havre and his consistently high rating in opinion polls.
The reshuffle is seen as a move designed to bolster the president’s green credentials and win back disillusioned voters ahead of a possible re-election bid.
🗞 A la Une de La Montagne vendredi 3 juillet 2020 pic.twitter.com/flVyTBP68J— La Montagne (@lamontagne_fr) July 2, 2020
Macron said his "new path forward" would involve rebuilding key areas beginning with health, and the Ségur de la Sante – a consultation with medical partners, due to wrap up in the coming days.
He also cited the need to reposition government policies towards the elderly and increase support for young people, a group which he said had suffered the most during the crisis.
Pension reform still on the table
Macron also told journalists he would not give up on the overhaul of the pension system during his last two years in office, but said he was open to it taking a different form.
The proposed reforms provoked a series of protests organised by unions opposed to the plans.
"We can't be a country that wants its independence, with social, economic and environmental advancements and still be a country with the shortest working life in Europe. We have to be honest with ourselves."
He admitted however, that he had perhaps been clumsy in the way he went about introducing the reforms.
"I occasionally went too fast with some reforms. Things can only happen through dialogue. I have great ambitions for this country and sometimes I give the impression that I'm making reforms against people."
Tackle precarious jobs
He acknowledged that the health crisis had highlighted the precarious financial situation for many French people, for example, those in "second line" jobs, such as delivery staff and cashiers in supermarkets and he had asked the government to consult with social partners on this issue.
In terms of Covid-19, Macron admitted that he was not sure there would be a second wave, but that his ministers were in the process of preparing a prevention campaign over the summer.
When asked whether he was reshuffling with the 2022 elections in mind, he said going into campaign mode would mean not taking risks that are necessary for the economy here and now and he "didn't have the right to do that."
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