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Emmanuel Macron vows "bold and courageous" decisions

July 9, 2018

The French president has addressed a joint session of parliament in Versailles. Some right- and left-wing lawmakers boycotted the event, criticising his "monarchical" style.

Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech in Versailles near Paris
Image: Reuters/C. Platiau

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a reorganization of the French republic aimed at boosting state services in remote and deprived areas, and also vowed to unveil cuts to public spending "in the coming weeks" without going into spefics. 

In a nod to his critics and his crumbling approval ratings, Macron said, "I know I can't do everything, I know I can't succeed in everything," calling himself "humble but determined".

During his 90-minute address, the former investment banker detailed his early legislative successes such as cutting corporate tax, easing labor laws, reforming university entrance procedures and revamping the country's state rail operator SNCF. He also outlined other upcoming changes.

Read more: French Senate approves SNCF overhaul, cementing Emmanuel Macron's rail reforms

Welfare state

Macron said the priority for the coming year is to build a "welfare state of the 21st Century" which includes extending unemployment insurance for self-employed people. He also vowed to support those who work in old folks' homes, and said he hoped a law would be passed later this year to reform how elderly citizens are treated.

Macron also pledged to reshape France's pension system, replacing more than 40 pension schemes that exist today with one system that is transparent and fair to all.

Read more: French labor reform decrees signed by President Emmanuel Macron

Islamist terrorism in France

Macron acknowledged that "terrorism, the chaos of the world, migration and our failures in integration" played a role in public fears. "This is why we must restore republican order and respect," Macron said, referring to the fight against terrorism and a policing plan for troubled suburbs announced earlier this year.

Read more: Macron anti-terror law replaces French state of emergency

Islam in France

Macron announced that work would start in the coming months on "framework and rules" to ensure that Islam "will be practised everywhere in accordance with the laws of the republic." The "immense majority" of French Muslims supported the country's principles of individual freedom and secularism based on mutual respect, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron walks through the Galerie des Bustes (Bustes Gallery) in Versailles.
French President Emmanuel Macron walks through the Galerie des Bustes (Bustes Gallery) in Versailles.Image: Reuters/C. Platiau

State of the Union?

Critics had described his address to a joint session of parliament as a "monarchical" exercise in the former palace of King Louis XIV, something they say is a French version of the State of the Union speeches by US presidents. Some conservative and hard-left lawmakers boycotted the speech. Addressing concerns that they were not permitted to pose questions to Macron, he said he would look to amend the constitution to allow lawmakers debate with the president during such joint sessions.

"Victory!" "Victory! Macron gives in. Next time, he'll have to listen and answer," said far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, who earlier derided the French president as "Macron the First" in an apparent reference to the French kings who had lived in the Palace of Versailles. 

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kw/xx (AFP, dpa)