Will Emmanuel Macron be remembered as the great reformer? Or will he be “yet another failed French president”? His presidency has been marked by street protests, marches, strikes, and riots. His EU reforms have been met by intransigence and foot-dragging from European capitals, led by Berlin.
In 2018, President Macron raised the price of diesel in an effort to encourage French motorists to switch to (less polluting) petrol. In response, the gilets jaunes (or “yellow vests movement”) took to the streets with such ferocity and anger that Macron was forced to hold a “Great National Debate” to demonstrate he was listening.
In 2019, Macron pressed the reset button on his presidency. Yet, following attempts to reform France’s “unsustainable” pension system, the nation experienced a wave of strikes. Commentators are joking that, if events continue as they have, Macron may soon need a pension himself.
Analysts argue that Macron’s reforms are necessary. Pension systems in France (and across Europe) are struggling to cope with ageing populations supported by a dwindling workforce; diesel is up to four times more polluting than petrol, and its price has been kept artificially low by the French government since the 1970s; even the most ardent europhile admits the EU is in desperate need of reform.
Yet Macron often comes across as aloof, elitist, and out of touch. He makes gaffs which play into the idea he doesn’t care about the less wealthy. He has a public image as a “president of the rich”. Critics argue that Macron consistently fails to convince the public and bring them along with his reforms.
Is Macron making the tough choices France needs? Or will his reform efforts (both domestically and at the EU level) be judged a failure? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!