🤝Weekly Dispatch - Conflict Resolution
12 March 2023 - A call for contributors, Macron stands his ground on pensions, France and the UK renew their relationship, Cazeneuve launches his movement
The Weekly Dispatch is your weekly update on major events in French and European politics, published on Sundays to give you the ideal summary of current affairs.
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📣A call for contributors
🤺Macron stands his ground on pension reform
🤝France and the UK renew their relationship
🥊Cazeneuve launches his movement
📣Call for contributors
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🤺Macron stands his ground on pension reform
One thing that has been notable within the debate surrounding pension reform is that Emmanuel Macron has, for the most part, kept himself out of the discussions, preferring to lean on the legitimacy of the Elizabeth Borne government.
This week, eight unions and five youth organisations criticised him for the “absence of a response” from both the President and the Government in the face of the protests that have recently become a regular feature of the french political landscape.
However, he responded to this letter in a way that will undoubtedly please none of them as he attempts to navigate a topic that has become increasingly toxic and is contributing to the populist politics of the NUPES coalition.
“I do not underestimate the dissatisfaction of which you are the spokesperson as the anxieties expressed by many French people worried about never having a pension…The government is, as it has always been, at your disposal to move forward in the dialogue.”
Until this point, Emmanuel Macron had not intended to discuss the topic, wanting to respect “parliamentary time” with the law passing through the Senate. Still, he felt that he owed a response to this letter and attempts to turn the subject into a conflict between the unions and the Elysée.
“There was a period of union negotiations, then there was a period of work by the executive. Then there is parliamentary time in the Assembly and then now in the Senate. And the Senate is working hard, day and night”
Laurent Berger, Secretary General of the CFDT, had previously accused Emmanuel Macron of “remaining deaf” to the plight of the French people. The President, therefore, felt it necessary to clarify that “many changes have been made to the initial project” and that efforts have been made to allay their concerns.
Most notably, there have been changes related to the treatment of those with arduous careers, long careers, and a revaluation of small pensions, many points which had been lept upon as oversights in the initial proposal.
Olivier Véran, the government spokesperson, was clear that the government was aware that “the French are mostly unfavourable [towards the reform], But the French also know that we have made efforts.”
Efforts that the Unions find lacking.
François Hommeril, president of the CFE-CGC, was one of the first to aim at the President: “His speech remains unchanged and consists of using the same elements of language on a reform that would be fair and necessary, when we have demonstrated, with supporting arguments, that it was false. It is in the negation of reality”
He was followed swiftly by Laurent Escure, secretary general of the UNSA: “It's a bit like 'move around, there's nothing to see', and it's very serious. He seems disconnected from the reality of the country. It will accentuate the anger, already very present.”
With the senate having voted in favour of the pension reform package following several amendments, which you’ll read about during the week, you can expect an intensification in the fighting over this law in the Assemblée National.
And, more than likely, some additional protests.
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🤝France and the UK renew their relationship
You may have heard through your favourite newsletter than British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, visited French President Emmanuel Macron this week for the first Franco-British summit in five years.
If you somehow didn’t, and thanks for breaking my fragile heart, you can read it here:
The summit was intended to launch a “new start” and a “renewed agreement” between France and the United Kingdom, following years of disagreements and political manoeuvering related to Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rishi Sunak admitted that “the relationship has had its difficulties and I'm not just talking about the World Cup”, following years of Boris Johnson becoming known for his opportunistic shots across the channel and the less-than-diplomatic betrayal over the Australian submarine deal.
Emmanuel Macron thanked Rishi Sunak for his visit, clearly pleased to have a Prime Minister who was not struggling to figure out whether France was a “friend or an enemy” in the same way Liz Truss had during her three minutes as Prime Minister.
Both leaders agreed that it was imperative that they live up to their responsibilities as the only European nuclear powers and permanent members of the UNSC, with Emmanuel Making it clear that they had to back Ukraine.
“We share the same analysis and the same desire. Russia cannot and must not win this war”
Expect an explainer during the week!
🥊Cazeneuve launches his moveme
We’re pivoting to the Socialists to examine what Former Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is up to with his rear guard action.
With the old guard of the Parti Socialiste continuing its soul-searching following its subjugation to La France Insoumise and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, it seems the former Prime Minister is taking the lead.
Having previously launched his "manifesto for a social-democratic, republican, humanist and ecological left" last September, it looks like he’s taking the next step to regain support within his party and to reinforce the centre-left tendency of the PS.
For this reason, he is launching a new movement, ‘La Convention’, which is intended to help provide the guard rails that will provide his faction within the party, and that of former President Francois Hollande, with a way back to power.
“It is not a question of creating a party but a space for reflection and proposal allowing everyone to maintain their sensitivity”, he claimed in an email sent to those who had supported his manifesto, trying to avoid language that would attract too much ire from the Mélenchonists.
“The Convention is the retreat house in which we reflect when the traditional parties have a little trouble finding their bearings … it is the conviction that it is through the fight for the law that humanity progresses. It is by trusting the people, and not in the constant encouragement of the crowd’s outbursts, that the movement is made.
Politics is to say with the greatest sincerity, the greatest rigor, what we always believe in without being impressed by those who, by noise, seek to scare”
Unfortunately, that language is as subtle as yelling the macarena through a foghorn.
With the NUPES coalition, notably La France Insoumise, regularly criticised by all media outlets for creating a circus in the Assemblée National, the reference to “outbursts” are very clear.
Having resigned his membership of the PS, Cazeneuve is clearly looking for a way to reinforce the Social-Democratic left and to avoid a disastrous situation where his lifelong party finds itself continuing its downward spiral and where the behaviour of their coalition leaders.
His major fear is, with the increasingly schismatic state of French politics, abused by opposition parties looking to win populist victory in elections, that this could all lead to a victory by Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.
And to be entirely honest with you, if things continue as they are, this isn’t an unfounded fear and is something that we all have to fight aggressively to stop.
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Thank you. Fascinating look into French politics and a bit of the inner workings.