Five takeaways from Macron interview to mark a year since re-election

France’s president reflected on the controversial pension reforms and said high food prices would not improve before the end of the summer

Published Last updated

Pensions, inflation, national service: France’s president Emmanuel Macron has commented on these and other key issues in an interview to mark the first anniversary of his re-election.

The interview, by Le Parisien newspaper, took place in front of 11 of the paper’s regular readers and was published on April 23.

1. Pension reforms: ‘I should have been more present’

Mr Macron said that he "perhaps" should have "taken more of a risk" to push France’s controversial pension reforms through.

The government used the 49.3 article, which meant they went through parliament without MPs voting on them.

In the subsequent uproar, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government narrowly survived losing two votes of no confidence.

Read more: French PM survives two no-confidence votes over pension reforms

Mr Macron said: “This is how the [political] institutions work. The president is the guarantor. He sets the course then the government and parliament do their job.

“Perhaps the mistake was not being present enough to give consistency and carry this reform myself.”

The president repeated his comments about recent protests in which people banged saucepans (a form of protest that goes back centuries).

He said: “When you have people who are there only to drown out your voice, or even throw things at you, it is no longer a protest, it’s uncivilised behaviour.”

He said that confusing the two would “make our democracy dysfunctional”.

Read more: Banging saucepan protests ‘won’t move France forwards’, says Macron

2. Inflation: ‘Difficult until the end of the summer’

Mr Macron said that “food prices are going to be tough until the end of the summer", but said that “work should pay better” and called for “social dialogue” with employers.

It comes as food prices climbed by 15.9% year-on-year in March.

Read more: Major French supermarkets agree to keep essential food prices down

Read more: Are France’s measures to tackle food price rises working?

3. National service: ‘Gradual introduction’

Mr Macron has often said he is in favour of extending national service (service national universel, SNU) across the country.

However, he said: "I don't think we can make universal national service compulsory in the whole country overnight. We must gradually move towards more areas that will adopt it.”

The head of state admitted that introducing the plan was a “logistical challenge”.

It comes after the Senate recommended in March the postponement of the rollout of the SNU, "in view of the uncertainties" of the project, especially on cost, which has been estimated “in excess of €2billion".

Read more: Could national service soon be mandatory in France?

4. Government institutions: ‘Rethink’

The president also said that he wanted to move forward on several ideas to reform government processes. However, he admitted that this was not a major priority for the presidents of the Assemblée Nationale and Senate.

He said that he would “send them a proposal…to see if there could be a way forward”.

More specifically, he asked questions including: “Should we use referendums (référendum d'initiative partagée, RIP) or not? Should we have more proportional representation inside the Assembly? Should we change parliament rules to avoid stalemates, without seeing a similar issue to those seen recently?”.

Read also: France's pension reforms largely approved as referendum rejected

5. Marine Le Pen: ‘Response to challenges’

Mr Macron also issued a political warning. He said: “Marine Le Pen will come to power if we don't adequately respond to the country's challenges, and if we get used to lying or denying reality.”

Although the president reminded watchers that he “beat [Ms Le Pen] twice", he said that opponents would “never win" against the Rassemblement National by “playing their own game, of being populist and extremist”.

Instead, he said we must “build sites of re-industrialisation, eco-friendliness, order, and the fight for our public services".

Related articles

Six key takeaways from Macron’s TV interview on pension reforms