“The moment we are going through, which comes after many crises over the last 15 years, requires us to open new stages in order to regain full control of our lives and our destiny in France and Europe,” Macron said Sunday. “Our first priority is to rebuild a strong, green, sovereign, solid economy.”
Macron’s domestic woes have fueled speculation of changes in his cabinet and a possible early election. He didn’t address those questions on Sunday, saying instead he’ll present his “new path” in an speech in July.
He did talk about reinventing himself and acknowledge flaws in his government’s handling of the pandemic. “We’ll confront our weaknesses and will fix them quickly and strongly,” he said. “The state held up.”
Macron had a 33% approval rating in an Elabe poll published June 4, compared with 39% in April. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe appears to get more credit for tackling the pandemic: his approval rating rose to 39%, the highest since December 2017.
Macron addressed discrimination and racism in France for the first time since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody set off nationwide protests in the U.S.
“We will be uncompromising with racism, antisemitism and discrimination,” Macron said, days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against racism in her own country. He pledged “new strong measures for equal opportunities.”
Yet he vowed that statues of French historical figures would remain untouched and praised the police. France “won’t erase any names from its history,” he said.
Ahead of the speech, a presidency official said Macron, 42, has been crafting the “next steps” of his tenure. That means going back to the drawing board on pension reform and weighing which parts have to be scrapped.
Before the pandemic, Macron had pledged to cut back on generous retirement benefits to rein in government spending. The goal still stands, and is possibly even more important given the strain that Covid-19 will put on French coffers, according to his advisers.
As the government implemented one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to stem the virus, it also unleashed support for the economy that Macron said would total 500 billion euros ($563 billion). On Sunday, he pledged to avoid tax increases while promising investment in hospitals and youth employment.
After more than three years in power, Macron has the advantage of a broad majority in parliament and the lack of a credible adversary for the 2022 presidential election.
With the lockdown easing, he struck a combative, confident tone on Sunday.
“We’ll be able to once again find pleasure in being together,” Macron said. “In short, we will be able to find France again.”