Grand débat: is Macron changing his policies?

French President Macron has presented the conclusions he has drawn from the grand debate. The measures announced - some in detail and some still sketchy - include higher pensions, lower taxes, reduced public spending, more civic participation and increased support for single parents. Commentators assess the president's speech - and the promises he made.

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Kommersant (RU) /

Like a captain in a storm

Kommersant's French correspondent Alexei Tarkhanov praises Macron for refusing to kowtow to the yellow vests:

“For one thing it wouldn't be his style, but it's also not among the obligations of a French president, who according to the constitution should always behave like the captain of a ship in a storm. He alone makes the decisions, he alone is accountable for their impact. ... Macron did not address the people directly using the lexicon and intonation of a large demonstration, instead he talked to journalists who don't need to be taught how to dissect speeches. And there were not just a few concessions in the presidential text. ... His target audience is people who don't use violence, not the loud troublemakers or the lumpenproletariat, not the rich and not the poor, but the steady ballast that stops France from capsizing.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A good mix of reason and emotion

Macron's crisis management is exemplary - also for the EU, comments political scientist Maurizio Ferrera in Corriere della Sera:

“The restabilisation of French society, Macron's reinforcement and above all the start of a 'second phase' of effective social and economic reforms are good news for all Europe. Because they show that it is possible to react to the social crisis and the mobilisation of its 'losers' without rebelling against the EU and chasing after populist solutions. Macron's strategy is a combination of reassurance and demands for change, civic participation and the inclusion of experts - a strategy that is based on both 'reason and emotion' (we are the heirs of the Enlightenment, the president reminds us). Regardless of how you interpret this, it is a new course, and not just for France.”

Le Courrier (CH) /

President sticking to his ultra-liberal course

French President Macron is ignoring the social problems that the demonstrators are calling attention to, criticises Le Courrier:

“Has the president really understood the demands and the profound inequalities that are driving their protests? If he has, his responses to the social challenges that are growing by the week are all the more disappointing. He's announced a cut in income tax - but not the reintroduction of the wealth tax. At the same time he has promised to strengthen the public service, which, however, would make it necessary to cut public spending. And speaking of contradictions: to those who eke out a living with precarious jobs that promise meagre pensions, he says they should work longer hours. Emmanuel Macron can repeat all he likes that his plan is to make his project of transforming society more humane. The fact is that he wants to press ahead at full speed with the ultra-liberal reforms that caused the current strife.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Grand debate, paltry outcome

The initiatives are anything but a new step in the right direction, Mediapart criticises:

“Less than a new start, this is more like a tweaking of the method. The head of state is attempting to re-establish the logic of his presidential campaign which he had somewhat lost sight of: resolutely pressing ahead with the neo-liberal transformation of the country while hoping that the tax cuts will restore calm before the full employment he promised for 2025 can become reality. He wants to polish his 'social-liberal' image, so to speak, by lending an ear to the left wing of his team of economic advisors, while at the same time promising cuts in public spending so as not to despair the right wing. ... In this way he once again runs the risk of disappointing everyone. A grand debate with a paltry outcome.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Liberalism with a human face

Macron is remaining true to his economic policy, the business paper Les Echos writes in praise:

“In political terms his presidency is only just beginning. Economically, he's pushing ahead without doing one of the about-faces with which so many of his predecessors sent growth plummeting on the pretext of calming fears. With his public service centres in each district and the guarantee of maintenance payments for single mothers, Emmanuel Macron has infused liberalism with humanity without changing course. He is not promising to finance tax cuts with new loans, but with spending cuts and more dynamism. The transformation of the country continues but it now has a purpose: allowing each person to partake in the progress.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Beacon of hope must not fail

De Standaard hopes that Macron's announcements will calm the tensions in the country:

“Perhaps the fire in Notre-Dame helped Macron. It engendered a sense of unity among the French and allowed him to enhance his profile as president. ... One can only hope that the speech will be well received by the French. After all, his election was proof that there is an alternative answer to dissatisfaction with the status quo beyond populism: an answer that looks forwards and inspires hope. If Macron fails, these positive feelings will also be dashed.”