PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to make major economic, immigration and education reforms despite France’s divisive and political challenges, including months of protests against pension changes and the recent death of a police officer. Riots on juveniles are included.
In a wide-ranging interview with Le Point magazine published on Thursday, Macron said he would meet the country’s “main political leaders” next week to discuss the issues facing France. The aim of the talks, he said, would be to propose a new bill and possibly a referendum.
Macron lost his majority in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, last year, forcing him to use political maneuvering to get any new legislation passed. “It’s not a big deal,” he said in the interview, noting that his centrist government had since managed to pass some new legislation with the support of center-left and traditional right-wing members.
Macron wants to avoid a repeat of the major political crisis sparked earlier this year by a parliamentary deadlock over cost-cutting reform by raising the retirement age from 62 to 64. His government used a special constitutional power to pass legislation without a vote. in the National Assembly, enraging opponents who staged protests for months.
Macron promised to address the roots of several days of unrest around France sparked by the killing of a 17-year-old boy by police in late June. He told Le Point that those who participated in the riots, including many under the age of 18, acted out of a “desire for revenge” against the police and state institutions.
“There was no political message, nor was there any social or religious message,” he said.
The 45-year-old president vowed to implement a major education reform that would include reducing students’ vacation days, and allowing students with learning difficulties to return to school sooner than others after the holidays.
“There are too many holidays,” Macron said.
He also said the immigration bill, which has been postponed several times this year due to lack of a parliamentary majority, will be debated in the coming months. He said his government would hold talks with opposition parties to make a proposal.
“We must significantly reduce immigration, starting with illegal immigration,” he said. He argued that the EU’s external borders should be better protected.
The comments come as a number of boats have capsized or run into trouble off the North African coast and Italian coasts in recent days. Thousands of migrants have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year in the hope of reaching Europe.
Macron vowed to bring the unemployment rate down to 5%. The unemployment rate in France reached 7.2% this year, the lowest rate since 2008.
He said his policies since 2017 have boosted France’s growth and improved its economic “attractiveness” to foreign countries. “We have to make more efforts to reduce unemployment by all means,” he said.
The Associated Press