President Macron convened on July 9th all members of the Parliament (National Assembly & Senate), gathered in the “Congress” form in Versailles, to give a speech of general policy.
President Macron already explained last year that he would address the Parliament in its “Congress” form on a yearly basis to explain his agenda, borrowing the “State of the Union address” from the US tradition. This speech was the occasion to take stock of his first year of mandate, which was “the year of fulfilled commitments”, to highlight the recovery of the French economy, and present the forthcoming reforms.
An economic policy already well-structured but which still needs to be strengthened
While the Head of State was blamed by a part of his constituents for conducting a too liberal economic policy, he said during his speech that he fully endorses the numerous reforms implemented during the past year: the removal of the wealth tax, the reform of the Labor Code or the reform of the rail system.
Convinced that the key for a strong and healthy economy is the strengthening of investments, President Macron specified that his policy aims to support “companies” and “not rich individuals”. Emmanuel Macron also announced that Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present in the coming weeks a plan to lower French public spending and pledged “strong and bold choices”. This plan will be accompanied by a “reorganization of the State action through more presence in the territories and more flexibility”.
Building the 21st century Welfare State based on a new social contract
Criticized for his tendency to individually wield absolute power, President Macron seems to have understood that ruling alone may at the end dampen his reformist ambitions. His first sign of openness goes to MPs to whom he promised to table an amendment in the reform of the Constitution which will allow him, from next year, to listen to the debate and respond to MPs, following his speech in the Congress.
Emmanuel Macron stood for a new “emancipatory, universal, effective and empowering” social contract for the 21st century, which would be collectively built with Social Partners. Following a year of reduced room for Social Partners’ action in the framework of the Labor Code and Rail System reforms, the President invited unions and employers’ organizations on July 17 to lay the foundations of this new social contract. This meeting should include a discussion regarding the unemployment insurance, currently ruled by social partners, and for which Macron wishes to strengthen the citizens’ rights and responsibilities.
Because this new social contract should be collectively designed, President Macron also announced that he will meet with the first 100 French companies to call for their commitment regarding training and hiring, particularly towards territories in difficulty.
A single cleavage in Europe: the one between progressives and nationalists
Emmanuel Macron was (one of) the only European Heads of State to have been elected on a pro-European program, which was a risky bet in the current political context in Europe: deep divisions between Western and Eastern Europe, the continuing rise of populisms including in founding Member States of the EU such as Italy, or the current migratory crisis. In this context also marked by the Brexit and a weakened Germany, President Macron has successfully established himself as the main EU spokesperson for foreign countries and allowed “real advances that some thought impossible” as he said during his speech.
According to President Macron, the real battle that awaits Europe is the one between progressives and nationalists, which will be at the heart of the issues of the 2019 European elections. In front of the Congress, he said that most of the answers to our economic and social concerns would pass by the strengthening of our common borders in Europe and a policy of responsibility and solidarity within Europe.
The 2019 European elections will not be crucial only for the EU, but also for President Macron himself. If nationalist forces win the election, it is his whole vision of Europe and the role that France could play in that context that will be endangered.