Macron begins his second term: France’s president does not want a “business as usual” policy

Same person, same country, same policy? Emmanuel Macron has been re-elected, but he just does not want to give the impression of “business as usual”. At his official inauguration on Saturday, the signs deliberately pointed to renewal.

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“The French people have not extended the term of office that is now coming to an end,” Macron said in his speech, which lasted about ten minutes. “This new people, unlike five years ago, has entrusted a new president with a new mandate.” He reiterated his previously expressed desire to invent a “new way” to meet social and environmental challenges.

The official ceremony at the Elysée Palace was attended by 450 guests, including members of the government, the president’s family, members of the military and personalities from sports and culture. Former Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande were also present.

Francois Hollande, former President of France, greets Emmanuel Macron, President of France, during the ceremony …Photo: dpa / AP / RTR Pool / Gonzalo Fuentes

The inauguration is highly ritualized: First, the president of the French Constitutional Court read out the election results before Macron was handed the chain by the “Grand Master of the Legion of Honor”. Each of the individual links in the symbolic jewel represents one of the actions of the nation.

Macron then gave his short speech, in which he also spoke about the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and the climate emergency. In this difficult time, when many turned to nationalism and nostalgia, the French people have chosen a “project for the future”, Macron said. Steps must be taken to create a more independent France. Macron also spoke about making schools more inclusive, making the health system more accessible and wanting to build a new peace in Europe.

Macron’s first trip abroad is to Berlin

Macron’s second season officially begins on May 14. As early as next Monday, the president will begin his first trip abroad, which traditionally takes him to Berlin to see Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Macron is also expected to appoint a new prime minister in the near future. Many, including Macron’s own ministers, had expected a faster reshuffle of government. But the president is taking his time.

This can also be related to difficulties in finding the right person. Before the second vote, Macron had announced that the new prime minister would be in charge of climate policy and embodying a social profile. The staff also has a symbolic character and should be seen as the first sign of how serious Macron is with his renewal promises.

Challenges of the second term

During his first term, Macron embarked on delicate reforms, including the labor market, immediately after the election. This time, the 44-year-old will likely be more careful about avoiding social unrest. Several large construction sites are waiting for him. Much will also depend on the outcome of the parliamentary elections in June. An overview:

purchasing power: Macron’s defeated challenger, the right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, made the financial concerns of many Frenchmen the focus of his election campaign. Macron will now pass a law to increase purchasing power as early as this summer. The plans include adjusting pensions to inflation and higher salaries for civil servants and teachers.

Low-income households must be provided with food stamps. Macron will hold on to the price brake for gas and electricity. The fuel discount of 18 øre per. liters need to be extended but at the same time adjusted so that people who need it can get the most benefit from it. Opposition to this project is likely to come from conservatives who fear for state finances.

Climate: Towards the end of the election campaign, Macron admitted that his climate policy had lived up to expectations. To reduce CO2 emissions and at the same time become independent of Russian oil and gas, Macron wants to expand nuclear power and renewable energy at the same time. Up to 14 new nuclear reactors and 50 offshore wind farms are to be built. France had fought for Brussels to have nuclear energy classified as sustainable in order to attract private investors. The energy efficiency of buildings must also be promoted.

pension reform: At present, the retirement age in France is 62 years – and there are 42 different pension schemes. Macron wants to raise the retirement age to 65 and abolish the special schemes, while taking into account certain professional groups. Towards the end of the election campaign, he declared that retirement as a 65-year-old “was not a dogma”. Macron justifies the need for reform by saying that it is the only way the social system can continue to be funded.

In an attempt at reform in his first term, Macron met with massive opposition. Due to the pandemic, the project was put on hold. This time, the President is planning intensive consultations with the social partners. These are due to start in June. A draft law should be presented in the autumn at the earliest.

European policy: France will hold the EU presidency until the end of June – a chance for Macron to advance its projects. The Ukraine war has given new pressing force to his quest for “strategic autonomy”. France is committed to expanding European military cooperation while redefining relations with NATO. Macron also wants to strengthen European cooperation in other areas, such as the fight against climate change and the development of new technologies.

Political frustration and extremism: In the first round of presidential elections, 58 percent of French people voted for populist or extreme candidates. In the round, Le Pen got 41.5 percent, the best result in her party’s history. Macron is also aware that many chose him only to prevent Le Pen. To overcome the division in the country, Macron will try to bring representatives of the right and left into the government.

Macron promised that he would also take into account the “angry and dissenting opinions” of Le Pen voters. Le Pen had fared better among low-income people in rural areas. Last but not least, to convince these voters, Macron had to correct his behavior, which is often perceived as arrogant.

Emmanuel Macron gave a speech at the beginning of his second term.Photo: Lewis Joly / AP / dpa

Relations with Germany: For Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), Macron’s second term is an opportunity for a new beginning. The German government reacted with relief to his re-election, for Macron’s opponent in the run was the right-wing populist Marine Le Pen. In an unusual move, Scholz had previously called for Macron’s election along with the Spanish and Portuguese heads of government. Scholz was also the first to call Macron before his speech at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on election night to congratulate him.

For the sake of German sensitivity, Macron has so far not said a word publicly about France supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine long before the discussion was still going on in Germany. Even when there are other differences of opinion, such as the need for nuclear power, both sides repeatedly confirm that they respect each other’s path.

Macron’s visit to Berlin is also important “to counter Marine Le Pen’s anti-German statements,” said political scientist Hans Stark of the Institute of International Relations in Paris. Macron’s right-wing populist challenger had announced the end of cooperation between France and Germany in her former form if she won the election.

She especially wanted to stop joint armament projects like the FCAS fighter system and the future tank. In fact, when Germany decided to buy American F35 fighter jets, things had gone badly in France. If Macron gets a government majority in June, “he will be the strong man in Europe,” Stark says. The Franco-German couple would then tend to be dominated by the French side. That would compensate for a time when Merkel held a leading position in the EU for a long time, he adds. (with AFP)

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