Five big challenges facing Emmanuel Macron in 2020

Five big challenges facing Emmanuel Macron in 2020
French president Emmanuel Macron, looking resolute. Photo: AFP
The French president has quite a to-do list lined up for 2020, here we look at five of the most challenging issues he faces.

We hope Emmanuel Macron had a relaxing Christmas, because he's going to need all his energy to deal with these.

1. Pension reform

As anyone with a passing interest in France will already know, mass transportation strikes have been gripping the country since December 5th.

READ ALSO Keep up to date with the latest news and analysis on French transportation strikes

Mass transportation strikes greeted the government's planned pension reforms. Photo: AFP

These strikes were called in protest at the government's plans for pension reform, so the top of the French president's list is ending the deadlock and bringing the strikes to an end.

This might be easier said than done, however, if the president is intent on pushing through his pension reforms, which he regards as key to his project of modernising France.

Talks between the government and the unions restart on January 7th, and already some concessions have been offered around early retirement for certain groups including ballet dancers and pilots as well as end-of-career options for certain professions including health workers.

As things stand, the pension reform bill will be presented to ministers on January 22nd and the French parliament will debate it in February.

Click here for a full breakdown of exactly what the reforms involve.

When and how the strikes will end is quite frankly anyone's guess.

Will Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo win another term to finish her cycle lanes? Photo: AFP

2. Municipal elections

These don't involve the president directly, the elections are local elections where people elect their local mayors and councils. However coming mid way through Macron's presidential term, the success or otherwise of his party La République en Marche (LREM) will be seen as an indicator of how popular or indeed unpopular the president is.

This is a particular problem for LREM which as a relatively newly formed party does not have strong local roots and will not be fielding candidates in all areas in the elections that will take place over two rounds of voting on March 15th and 22nd.

In Paris it is shaping up to be a tough fight for current Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo who is going for another term on the platform of finishing her ambitious projects to make the city cleaner, greener and more car and pedestrian friendly in time for the Olympics in 2024.

She faces challenges from, among others, LREM candidate Benjamin Griveaux – a former government spokesman – and mathematician  Cedric Villani, who is standing as an independent after failing to win the LREM nomination.

In smaller towns and communes around the country elections for local mayors and councillors will also take place and – assuming Brexit happens on January 31st – will mark the end of public service for many British local officials, as Brits will not be allowed to stand for office once the UK has left the EU.

READ ALSO Brexit axe looms for British office-holders in France

3. The bioethics bill

A bill that, among other things, extends IVF treatment to single women and lesbian couples was passed by the French parliament in 2019, but in January it will arrive before the Senate, which tends to be more socially conservative.

Despite polls showing that a majority of French people support the move, the bill was marked by protests from religious and socially conservative groups.

IVF is known as PMA – Procréation Medicalément Assistée – in France. Photo: AFP 

4. Financial protections for the elderly

The issue of older people living in poverty was one that Macron promised to address in 2019, but the measures then became tangled up with his controversial pension reforms.  

Some measures such as full reimbursement for glasses, dental work and hearing aids will come in from January 1st, but the thrust of the issue remains unresolved.

The pension reforms contain a minimum monthly pension of €1,000 a month – tied to the minimum wage going forward – which would largely alleviate the problem. However even if Macron manages to get his reforms through they will not take full effect for several years and will not affect people who are already retired.

With anger growing about the problem he may have to take some form of temporary action in the meantime.

5. Public broadcasting reform

To be discussed by the French parliament in February this is more a structural change than an alteration to what we will see on our screens, but the idea of creating a holding company to oversee French state TV and radio services is still likely to stir controversy among politicians.

Macron has always pitched himself as a 'revolutionary' not a politician and is not interested in maintaining the status quo.

He seems to have fairly boundless energy too, and with a task list that this, he will certainly need it.


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