French President Emmanuel Macron laid out an ambitious agenda Thursday for his second term in the hope that he is re-elected in polls that will be held in April.
The head of state addressed a crowd of reporters during a four-hour press conference in a northeastern suburb of Paris, discussing nearly every item on the domestic and international agenda, from the coronavirus pandemic to the country’s retirement age to the war in Ukraine.
When pressed by a reporter on a comment he made in 2019 that NATO is “brain dead,” Macron said it was true at the time -- and was quite unapologetic for it -- but that the Ukraine war had "applied an electroshock" to NATO, which meant that it was "no longer brain dead" but now indispensable for dealing with Russia's war on its sovereign neighbor.
Macron’s full agenda included 100 measures, or “projects” as he called them, chief among them strengthening the reforms in the business laid out in 2017, those that would now address the post-pandemic high unemployment. He also discussed introducing 15 billion euros ($16.6 billion) in tax cuts for businesses and households.
The measures will be bound into a 24-page booklet which will be sent in the mail to 6 million households this weekend.
“We have two levers: full employment and reforming the pension system,” said Macron.
The retirement age -- long a sore spot among the populace and the subject of multitudinous protests in 2019 and early 2020 -- was brought up early in his speech. He had vowed to overhaul it in his first run for office and is still pressing to push the retirement age from 62 to 65.
Another major focus is the Solidarity labor income, RSA as it is known, which guarantees a minimum level of income to the unemployed and low-wage workers.
The president will also seek to centralize all areas of France’s social benefit programs into one system, including unemployment, housing and childcare and proposed a 50% increase in the support allowance for single mothers.
Macron’s slogan -- broadcast on large screens behind him -- is “With You,” something he has vowed to push forward to combat his perception of being a “president of the rich.”
“’With You’ is not just a slogan; it will be for me a new democratic way of working,” he claimed.
The president spoke of two major projects, that for schools and for health care. He will look to increase salaries significantly, promising “a new pact for teachers.”
Massive changes were talked about in terms of health care, including the recruitment of 50,000 nurses and caregivers.
“We must succeed in going much further, faster, and stronger,” he said, seeking to improve access to emergency care, simplifying the governance of hospitals, and seeking to fill posts in what he called “medical deserts.”
The president put great emphasis on the agricultural industry, going so far as to propose a law for the training and installation of farmers so generations of family farms can continue, saying he would invest 30 billion euros ($33 billion) in the sector.
Energy independence took center stage as well, with the president desiring France to be “the first major nation to emerge from dependence on gas, carbon and coal.” His plan: six new nuclear reactors and a plan for a possible eight more, increased solar power, and 50 wind farms at sea. He will also undertake a mass renovation of 700,000 homes throughout the country.
According to French news outlet France24, Macron has gained five to six points over the last month which holds him in good stead to possibly win the first round of elections on April 10.
The two top winners of the first round then head to a second round runoff held on April 24.
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