WHILE WINNING THE FRENCH PRESIDENCY WAS AN EXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENT FOR EMMANUEL MACRON, FULFILLING HIS MISSION OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS WILL REQUIRE FORMIDABLE FOCUS AND CONTINUAL CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT
Emmanual Macron and Federica Mogherini at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 2016. Photo credit: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Photo Michele Limina: https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/24428299722
Put simply, President Macron will need to make France an easier, more dynamic place in which to create and expand businesses, so as to increase employment and wages, while at the same time providing an increased sense of security and equal participation to citizens of all ages. Fortunately, he considers Europe as France’s friend, not its enemy, so he will be better able to obtain support and collaboration from his European partners, most notably Germany.
If he is to succeed, he will need to engage citizens all over the country, persuading them that change is in their interests and can be achieved without creating losers. Here are eight points that should be at the top of his agenda, to help him to Wake Up France, as well as Europe:
1. Constant nationwide campaigning
Rather than something directed from comfy salons in Paris and the Elysee Palace. Macron needs to turn his one-year-old movement, En Marche, into a permanent means of citizen engagement and activism.
2. Concrete results on jobs and living standards
So as to convince people that any apparent sacrifices are worth it. When his Italian equivalent, Matteo Renzi, also swept into office in 2014 as a 39-year-old reformer, he made the mistake of prioritising political reforms that had no relevance for ordinary people, and a labour reform that caused more worry than hope.
3. Focus spending on a few areas that have a big, visible impact
For example infrastructure investment; this will reap more rewards than handing pennies round to lots of different causes (another of Renzi’s mistakes). Macron really needs to be able to say, after 12 months, 'This is how France is changing'.
4. Get Germany to be ambitious on Europe:
Macron should exploit his great political capital to convince Angela Merkel (or her successor) to be ambitious about European collaboration. Two great areas of European construction are just waiting to be pushed forward: a real, profound development of European Defence and Security Cooperation; and a coordinated programme of public investment in infrastructure, especially in sustainable energy and a smart grid. On Defence and Security, a blueprint has already been produced by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative (pictured above).
5. Fix Europe’s stance on migration and banking:
Alongside those areas of European construction stand two areas in desperate need of attention: European policy towards migrants and asylum-seekers, and the Banking Union which is needed to make the euro single currency more stable. Both of these would become much easier to obtain agreement on - and full political backing - if they are associated with a pro-growth public investment plan and a European Defence and Security initiative which adds to Europeans’ sense of security rather than their fears.
6. Stay strong on Trump:
Fear of the policies of Donald Trump’s United States can be helpful, even if a confrontational approach would be unwise. Europe needs to stand on its own feet, able to serve its own security needs and to defend the open trade on which it depends. France, rather than Brexit Britain, now has the chance to be the true advocate of a strong, open, global Europe.
7. Match openness with equality:
Openness, as Macron stressed in his debates with Marine Le Pen, is vital for France’s future; but it must be matched with equality, with convincing measures to rebuild social trust and to create unity. In this, Macron’s emphasis in his campaign on learning from Sweden, Denmark and other Nordic countries is welcome. France shares Sweden’s egalitarian culture; now it needs to follow Sweden’s example in enabling new creative industries, the French versions of Spotify, to flourish while maintaining welfare systems.
8. Galvanise older supporters:
The biggest welfare challenge is going to be pensions and the retirement age. As our 2050 Index shows, France spends 14% of GDP on public pensions, chiefly because French citizens can retire so early. Cutting pensions will just cause anger: a better approach will be to help people in their 50s and 60s to get or keep jobs, often part-time ones, so that they remain fit and productive as well as continuing to contribute the taxes that finance the country’s excellent public services. Older voters supported Macron often because they feared Le Pen’s anti-euro stance would threaten their savings. Now, he needs to galvanise older people to help create a new vibrant France.
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